Escape to the Daybreak Lavender Farm
Streetsboro – Ever dream of escaping to tranquility in a lush field of aromatic lavender? Did you think you had to travel to Provence, in France, or to some lovely herbal farm on the West Coast? Well, think again! Jody Byrne and her husband, Michael Slyker, founders of DayBreak Lavender Farm in Streetsboro, have been quietly growing lavender here since 2001. And on their 14-acre farm, they also create handmade natural soaps and other bath and body products. I went to visit recently, so see for myself what the Ohio State Senate designated “… the first lavender farm in Ohio’s history.”
At DayBreak Lavender Farm, they grow eight to nine types of lavender — both English and French varieties. English lavender plants are smaller and denser, with flowers in all ranges of purple and pink. They tend to have a milder fragrance. French lavender varieties like ‘Grosso’ and ‘Provence’, which are grown for their hardier stems and stronger fragrance, are often used for culinary purposes.
Byrne, originally from New York, once worked in market research and grew lavender and pansies in a window box in her small apartment. Although she enjoyed her urban lifestyle, she wanted to give rural living a go before she was, “too old to enjoy it.” She made the decision to purchase property in Streetsboro, intent on creating a new life for herself. Eventually, she met Slyker, the grandson of a farmer, and together, they’ve created Ohio’s first lavender farm.
Years ago, when Byrne and Slyker started their fledgling farm, they started with a test bed of four rows, with three plants each of thirteen varieties. Growing multiple plants provided more indicators of what worked and what didn’t. The test bed also showed them which plants were the hardiest for our growing region, what characteristics they liked, and they used that knowledge to help the farm, and their business grow.
Worldwide, there are several hundred varieties of lavender, with over 100 that can grow in our region. When planting lavender, Byrne suggests purchasing perennial plants, and not those marked as annuals. She recommends that those looking to cultivate lavender stay away from anything marked as an annual. Those plants, state Byrne, “are actually perennials that aren’t cold-hardy for our region.” According to Byrne, ”Lavender looks gorgeous in three to four years, and those plants won’t be around long enough to look their best.”
With twelve years growing lavender in our region, Byrne and Slyker share what they have learned through free workshops. If you’d like to learn how to grow, groom and harvest your own lavender, attend a free workshop offered daily at the farm.
While at the farm, pick a fresh lavender bouquet. Visitors can walk the lavender field and compose their own bouquet, or choose from farm-fresh bouquets in small, medium and large sizes. Bouquets range from $5 to $15 depending on size. Visitors are encouraged to explore the easy hiking trails or bring a picnic to enjoy on the property. Some visitors have even been inspired to paint or photograph the farm. In addition, DayBreak has designed a Junior Naturalist Program where kids of all ages can earn a Junior Naturalist Certificate at no charge.
Like other farmers, Byrne and Slyker’s farm is subject to fluctuating weather conditions. While plants are typically hardy to 10 degrees below zero, for the first time in DayBreak’s history, a late May frost damaged the emerging lavender buds this spring. Thankfully, the plants have recovered and are budding again. Slyker takes it in stride, stating, “Mother Nature likes to remind us that she’s in charge.”
Lavender has a rich and interesting past stretching back to the Roman Empire. According to Byrne, a Roman emperor is rumored to have had the streets of Rome filled with two inches of lavender buds, so that when his army returned from battle victorious, the chariot wheels and treading of the foot soldiers would release the flowers scent, or, ‘the smell of victory’.
Whether drawn by Mother Nature, or the ‘smell of victory’, DayBreak attracts nearly 1,000 visitors during the harvest season. At the farm, Byrne, Slyker and their staff also produce skincare, fragrance, and specialty food items they sell at two retail stores in Streetsboro & Strongsville, and online at daybreaklavenderfarm.com.
DayBreak’s Lavender Farm is open to the public Wednesday – Sunday, and is located at 2129 Frost Road in Streetsboro. For more information on the farm, its products, or its boutiques, visit their website. For up-to-the-minute developments in this year’s lavender harvest, visit the farm’s Facebook page at facebook.com/OhioLavenderFestival.