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Posted on Jul 11, 2016

Purple Reign: Family builds new business around new crop

GEORGE — Tucked among the green and gold fields of George is a shock of purple.
The vibrant fields are home to Trinity Gardens, one of the area’s newest businesses. Trinity Gardens specializes in a crop that’s pretty unique to Grant County – lavender.
Dave Putnam, a seasoned orchardist, knows of only about 30 acres of lavender planted throughout the county. Now his fields are among them.
Dave and his wife, Julie, started Trinity Gardens last year, planting an acre of their property off of Road 5 Southwest in the versatile and aromatic (not to mention lovely) crop. They are harvesting that acre this year and have since planted another acre. Plans are to expand by about another acre next year.

At Trinity Gardens, lavender farming is a family affair. Dave and Julie Putnam, center, are joined by their son, Matt, left; their daughter, Chelsea, right; and grandson Michael. Submitted photo.

At Trinity Gardens, lavender farming is a family affair. Dave and Julie Putnam, center, are joined by their son, Matt, left; their daughter, Chelsea, right; and grandson Michael. Submitted photo.

Lavender is used around the globe in several ways. It can be used as an herb in cooking or in tea. It can be dried or distilled and used in lotions, soaps, sprays and more.
The fast-moving Putnams already have a line of lavender products that range from lotion and body butter to linen sprays and car spritzers. Some of their products are for sale in area stores, including Two Doors Down and White Trail Produce in Quincy and the Seed Cupboard in Royal City.
But the family has more than lavender production on their minds. They aim to turn Trinity Gardens into a destination for visitors and the community.
The Columbia Basin is growing, Dave said. And with attractions such as Cave B and the Gorge Amphitheatre nearby, thousands of people are passing by on nearby Intestate 90, he added.
“We want this to be a place to come to,” said Chelsea, the couple’s daughter.
Future plans include building a retail store on site and setting aside u-pick days for visitors. It also means eventually opening up the lavender farm as an event venue for weddings and other gatherings as well as a backdrop for senior photos.
“The sky’s the limit,” Julie said.
Just how did the Putnams get hooked on lavender?
“Flying by the seat of our pants,” joked Chelsea.

The lavender rows were planted with walking paths between them for future visitors to enjoy. Photo by Jill FitzSimmons.

The lavender rows were planted with walking paths between them for future visitors to enjoy. Photo by Jill FitzSimmons.

Three years ago, Dave was driving by the property on Road 5 and noticed it was for sale. What possibly could they do with the land, Julie asked her husband. Dave thought his wife might like a lavender garden.
That’s because years ago the couple had visited Sequim, lavender capital of the state. They were able to tour lavender farms there, and it left a lasting impression on Julie.
“The smell, the look, just how you feel when you’re walking around – I just loved it,” said Julie, a retired nurse.
Back in George, the Putnams were able to envision among the weeds growing on that land a new family venture. Julie got to work researching lavender and its products. She chose their first varieties – Royal Velvet, Grusso and Super – and mapped out the lavender farm in neat blocks and pathways.

The Putnams hope to turn the lavender farm into a destination for visitors and the community. They are building unique sitting areas around the farm so people will be able to enjoy the uniqueness of the lavender rows.  Photo by Jill FitzSimmons.

The Putnams hope to turn the lavender farm into a destination for visitors and the community. They are building unique sitting areas around the farm so people will be able to enjoy the uniqueness of the lavender rows. Photo by Jill FitzSimmons.

Joining the couple in their lavender adventure are two of their three grown children, Chelsea, 26, and Matt, 24. Julie believes her children have played a big role in the fledgling business’ successes this past year.
“Each of the kids brings a vision and a lot of energy and excellent input,” she said. It was Matt who pointed out the lavender fields would make a wonderful wedding venue. And Chelsea, who works alongside Julie on the production end, has added an organic vegetable garden.
Along with planting lavender and tending to their new crop, the Putnams have been getting their hands dirty landscaping the property to turn it into that destination location. Using repurposed materials such as decorative headboards, orchard props and wheels from an irrigation wheel, the family has been building sitting areas where visitors can spend some quiet time among the picturesque lavender fields. A pergola also is planned.
“It’s fun to take things that nobody else wants anymore and to give it a different purpose,” Dave said.
With all the work the Putnams already have put into Trinity Gardens, the business has quickly grown into a deeply personal adventure. The business’ name itself is special to the family because it is not only a nod to the Putnams’ three children but also to their faith.
This past year also has been special for Dave and Julie, who get to work alongside their children. Even if, in the end, they don’t make a penny, all the work will have been worth it, Dave said.
“It’s worth every minute that we get to spend together,” he said.

 

— By Jill FitzSimmons, editor@qvpr.com

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