When Mike and Diane Neustrom moved to their farm near Bennington in 2002, there was only one other lavender farmer in Kansas.

Now there are eight.

And Mike Neustrom is president of the U.S. Lavender Growers Association.

On Saturday, the Neustroms are hosting their ninth annual lavender festival in which people from across the state come to tour their farm, buy lavender, pick lavender bundles and eat and drink lavender products.

“We’ll have live music, artists, a wine tasting and food items such as lavender ice cream and lavender lemonade,” Neustrom said. “People often want to get out and experience the farm experience and see something different. This is a one-day event. I’ve wanted to do two days, but the wife would kill me if we went two days.”

The Neustroms’ farm, about 100 miles north of Wichita, has 2 acres with a dozen different varieties of lavender and more than 4,000 plants. It often takes three years for the plant to get mature enough for the first harvest.

Like alfalfa, lavender is cut two to three times in a summer season, Neustrom said.

They harvest the plants with Japanese sickles.

“It is all cut by hand,” he said.

The Neustroms harvest the lavender for essential oils and to make products such as hand and body lotions, body butter, floral sprays and sachets.

It has become an extremely popular industry, Neustrom said, as more people become aware of lavender and its many uses.

Some people use the lavender products to help with migraines, pain relief and stress relief.

“When the lavender starts to flower, that’s when we harvest,” Neustrom said. “We don’t want it when it is in full bloom. We want the essential oil. Unlike a wheat farmer, I can’t take my crop to the local elevator, so I’ve developed a product line.”

Beccy Tanner: 316-268-6336, @beccytanner

———

©2016 The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, Kan.)

Visit The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, Kan.) at www.kansas.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

_____

Topics: g000065634,g000362661,g000066164