Blanco’s lavender festival attracts visitors from far and wide
When Tasha Brieger was a junior in college, she bought a lavender farm.
It’s not a typical endeavor for a 22-year-old student, and she said “no” to the offer at first, but over time her then-boss, Robb Kendrick, convinced Tasha to buy the farm from him and his wife, Jeannie Ralston. The couple was moving to Mexico, and they knew Tasha was the right person to take over the business.
Hired at age 16 as the couple’s photo assistant, Tasha was working for Robb and Jeannie when they opened Hill Country Lavender, Texas’s first lavender farm, in 1999. The couple had recently returned from visiting commercial lavender farms in France, where the climate is surprisingly similar to Central Texas’s, and decided to start their own lavender farm in Blanco.
With limited advertising for Hill Country Lavender, Jeannie and Robb were skeptical anyone would show up, but when they opened the farm’s gate that first weekend, “people were pouring through the gate in carloads,” says Tasha.
From that point on, Tasha was hooked on lavender.
“There is very little negativity in my job. Lavender has a calming effect,” says Tasha, who has a degree in photography and graphic design. Today she uses her experience to market and package lavender products while also running farm operations.
Lavender products fall under the lipstick index, which means that “even when people feel a crunch in the market, they’ll still splurge for that special item for themselves,” notes Tasha. The predictability of sales makes lavender a good business to be in.
As owner of Hill Country Lavender, Tasha helped get the annual Blanco Lavender Festival off the ground more than 12 years ago when Jeannie Ralston and other area farmers recommended the idea to the Blanco Chamber of Commerce. Since then, the festival has become an annual attraction for 18,000 visitors from across the country.
“We had a woman travel from Provence, France, to the festival to come and cut her own lavender because she couldn’t do it over there,” says Tasha. “That’s when I knew we’d made it.”
Libbey Aly, executive director of the Blanco Chamber of Commerce, is amazed by how many visitors return each year and how excited people get about lavender and the Blanco community. “It’s nice to see your community through the eyes of someone else,” she says.
The funds raised from the festival support Blanco Chamber activities throughout the year, helping to maintain and develop the important sense of community Blanco embodies for its residents, businesses, and visitors.
People obviously like what they see—and smell—at the Blanco Lavender Festival. But after 15 years of working with lavender, Tasha says she can’t smell the flower anymore—or perhaps only for a brief second. To compensate, she’s a built up a collection of lavender scent-testers around her to ensure the farm is growing the most floral lavender possible.
“When people walk up to a lavender field—before you even get there—you can smell the lavender in the wind,” says Tasha. “In our stressful world, anything that is calming and enjoyable is a good thing.”
Held in Blanco’s town square, the Blanco Lavender Festival is a three-day affair that features artisan booths, live music, and local food and spirits. For information about this year’s festival on June 9–11, visit www.blancolavenderfest.com.