Summer plans have changed. Faraway trips are not on the itinerary. But a trip to Lavender by the Bay may just make you feel like you’re somewhere else altogether.
The colors, the smells, the textures. It is indeed “sensory bliss,” as Summer Borsack refers to the intoxicating surroundings, during a time when our senses may need some stimulation after months cooped up during quarantine.
Borsack, a Springs resident, has made several trips to both the East Marion and Calverton farms, each with 15 acres of blooming lavender fields. “Some people go to take photos, some just to enjoy the experience of walking the fields, having the lush, thick lavender brush against your legs as the aroma floats up, breathing in the amazing scent.”
It is an experience that almost went unattainable because of the pandemic. Susan Rozenbaum, who owns Lavender by the Bay with her husband, Serge, and their son Chanan, says initially they decided not to open the fields to the public this summer because of COVID-19, feeling their normal operations were not conducive to the necessary social distancing.
However, Chanan found a service that could help with online ticketing for field entry. They opened the fields to a limited number of people during four 1.5-hour time slots at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Social distancing and masks are required. And the guests arrived. Not that you’d necessarily know it, were you among them.
“If you were to visit, you would say there’s nobody here,” Rozenbaum says. “That was the goal.”
There are fewer options than ever for summer activities, especially for children. Splish Splash Water Park, located diagonally across from the Calverton farm, remains closed. Beaches are limited to 50% capacity. Many don’t feel comfortable with playdates. Yet people are thrilled to just walk through the lavender fields.
“They’re thanking us for doing it,” Rozenbaum says, and the social media outpouring proves her point. “They find it a relaxing experience. People love it anyway, but especially now during a time of COVID, they feel it’s a pleasant experience. I hope they feel comfortable.”
Growing lavender plants began as a hobby for Susan and Serge, who is French and worked on farms in France and Israel. They cultivated it in the backyard of their then vacation home in Southold, giving it away to guests and eventually setting up a table at the end of their driveway offering bunches and sachets.
With so many people buying, they decided to purchase a fallow farm on the main road in East Marion in 2002 and started by planting two acres, adding on more each year until it reached 15 acres.
There are more than 80,000 lavender plants there now, and the Calverton farm is in its third year of operation. They grow two types—English lavender and French lavender. “English lavender considered the true lavender,” Rozenbaum says, explaining that it much sweeter than French and is used in baking and in teas. It produces a more vibrant blue color to deep purple.
French lavender, which can only be propagated from seed, is a much larger plant, with taller stems and a stronger scent. It tends to be used more medicinally. The purple is not as vibrant as in the English variety, but it ranges “from a pretty blue to a very pale blue,” she says.
There are main paths to walk lined with wood chips, so visitors are not stepping on the plants, which they do harvest for fresh and dried bunches, lavender-filled sachets, and aromatherapy and culinary products, all for purchase, including online. “This year, since people so happy to come see the fields…we’re just cutting for fresh bunches,” she says. There is also a limited quantity of lavender honey, available only for sale there, at a stand set up outdoors.
Among the many options, guests find something they can call their own. “You can make the experience whatever you want it to be,” says Borsack, who took her young children. “I found that when I stopped trying to figure out what I should be doing, I enjoyed myself much more.”
“We were just very happy that we could open up in a limited way. If we didn’t let people in the field, it wasn’t as if the lavender itself would go to waste,” Rozenbaum says, explaining that they would have still harvested and dried it. “We wouldn’t be losing the lavender, we would be losing the joy of people coming to visit.”
Lavender by the Bay is located at 7540 Main Road, East Marion and in Calverton across from Splish Splash on Route 25. For more information, visit lavenderbythebay.com.