Spotlight: Hill Country Lavender
How does one become the owner of a lavender farm? For Tasha Brieger, it had to do with being in the right place at the right time while pursuing a career – but not what you’d think.
Tasha first got involved with Hill Country Lavender Farm in Blanco as the owner’s photography intern. The original owners, National Geographic photographer Robb Kendrick and his wife, Jeannie Ralston, were taken by the lavender fields in Provence while on assignment for a story about perfume-making. They planted their own 2,000 plants upon their return to Texas, during Tasha’s first summer with them, and by the following summer had a field of lavender. When Jeannie invited the community and surrounding towns to come and cut their own lavender, people came in droves.
“So I started working with [Jeannie] and I never went back to Rob,” Tasha said, “I started helping making all the products and packaging them up. I was there from day one with the lavender farm.”
Soon Tasha became manager of the farm while the owners travelled, and at age 21, she agreed to buy the farm from them. Eleven years later, she is still at the helm of the operation and runs it with her fiancé. While he enjoys actually tending to the fields, Tasha said she likes to focus on the website, making products with the lavender and packaging them.
“It fell in my lap and it worked very well,” Tasha said. “I went to college to become a photographer or graphic designer, and I use all those skills in my business.”
Out of the 2 ½ acre farms comes an astonishing 75 different products, from soaps and lotions to bug sprays, travel sets and pillows with lavender in them. You can find the products at her parents’ shop in Blanco, Brieger Pottery, online, and in spas like the JW Marriott in San Antonio and Lakeway Resort & Spa. The benefits of lavender, Tasha said, are numerous.
“It’s really great for relaxation and decreasing stress levels,” Tasha said. “On the culinary side, it really just tastes yummy. It’s kind of interesting in its taste, it’s almost like you get a smell of it more than the taste of it. It’s a very aromatic flavor.”
Lick has been working with Hill Country Lavender for several years; its flowers star in our Lady Lavender Crisp flavor.
Tasha currently grows five different varieties of lavender, with each serving a different purpose. The kind that goes into our ice cream is the farm’s most abundant, Provence, which is the biggest variety and produces the most buds. It’s great for culinary purposes and can easily be used to make a simple syrup, steeped to make a tea or ground up for other purposes. The Spanish variety is easy to grow and good for landscaping purposes, but not for culinary, and the English variety is small enough to grow in a pot.
Soon, Tasha will be moving the farm into a bigger plot of land in Blanco, where she has space to do both production and retail. Just like the existing location, the public is invited to come during the season and cut their own lavender and enjoy the outdoors.
“A lot of people just come and bring blankets. We have areas for picnics.” Tasha said, “It’s just really calm and peaceful, and it’s got a nice breeze. We have people come and spend the whole day with us.”
Lavender season simply depends on mother nature. The farm usually opens for business in the third weekend of May until early July, although last winter’s unseasonably warmness could change that. A good indicator of lavender season, Tasha said, is by looking at how peaches are doing; both require the same amount of sun hours. The original farm will be open for this upcoming season, and both the original and new location will be open for spring 2017.