WYTHEVILLE, Va. — Each year, Beagle Ridge Herb Farm and Environmental Education Center give the public a unique opportunity to pick their own lavender bunches.
The lavender bloom in the summer allows the farm to have their annual “Upick Lavender” celebration. For $5.00 a bunch, owners Ellen and Greg Reynolds offer instructions, scissors and a rubber band. The Reynolds grow fourteen of the hundred different types of lavender.
“People can come and wander and we do not charge,” Ellen Reynolds said. “The only thing we charge for is the butterfly house and that includes a full tour. Other than that people show up to hike, buy or just wander the garden. We have a lot of photographers that come up and shoot and we do not charge for any of that.”
This year’s Upick event season began in late June. The season varies depending on the weather but is usually around the same time. This year’s Upick ended on June 30th.
“We do not have the customers pick the other herbs. A lot of the other herbs are strictly in the garden for what I call scratch and sniff,” Ellen Reynolds said. “We do not spray pesticides so people will come through and nibble or whatever, which is fine, I tell them what they can and cannot eat. There is nothing out there that will hurt them and nothing they can hurt.”
After the visitors have come through and picked their own, the Reynolds have their own efficient system to harvest the rest of the lavender for their variety of products available from the farm. It is a system in tandem, with Greg cutting and handing off the bundles to Ellen and other assistants to wrap with a rubber band. After they are cut and wrapped, the bundles are paperclipped and hung upside down inside so all the oils in the plants will make their way to the blooms.
2019 is Beagle Ridge Herb Farm’s eighteenth year in existence. The Reynolds bought the property in 1998 and opened in 2001. Greg jokes that Ellen started gardening and it just got out of hand. Ellen says it is more detailed than that.
“An herb farm was my intention,” Ellen Reynolds said. “At that time the term ‘agro-tourism’ was just becoming a thing so I went to a few conferences. We had bought this land and I was trying to figure out what to do.”
Eventually, the Reynolds settled on an herb farm. The land where Beagle Ridge Herb Farm resides used to be a hunting preserve. The couple had a home on the neighboring land and decided to expand.
“We lived in North Carolina when we originally bought the property up here and when this (Beagle Ridge Herb Farm) was available and we bought it,” Ellen Reynolds said. “We had beagles and we have called the house beagle ridge because we would bring the beagles up to the house on our personal property and our friends would always ask, ‘oh are the beagles going to run the ridges?’ So when we started this, I said we should call it beagle ridge. We had called it this for so long even before we started the farm that it just became Beagle Ridge.”
Ellen said that they are blessed. The upkeep of the farm, the butterfly population, their product line, the hiking trails and more is a lot of work, but Ellen said that if you love what you do, it is not work. They enjoy spending time at the farm.
“We have expanded the gardens five times since opening. Every year we make it a little bigger or built the butterfly house,” Ellen Reynolds said. “Six years ago we built this building (an event building on the property) to try to expand our season a little bit. We were also doing weddings and we just had tents and I wanted to be able to have air conditioning in August and heat in March. We also built this so that I could do classes.”
Beagle Ridge Herb Farm’s season is April to October, Thursday through Sunday, with some special events throughout the year.
“Right now our main focus is lavender and it will be for another month,” Ellen Reynolds said. “The lavender will always be here, but once it stops blooming, we will still tell you how to plant it and teach you all about it. We also do wreath classes and distilling of the oils.”
Education is a large part of Ellen Reynold’s mission on the farm and that is why Beagle Ridge Herb Farm is a certified backyard wildlife habitat with the National Wildlife Federation.
“The biggest thing to take away is that they can do it,” Ellen Reynolds said. “We want them to understand pollination, understand just a little bit more about the natural world and understanding a little bit more about what they have in their own backyard that they might not be aware of.”
Beagle Ridge Herb Farm and Environmental Education Center offers a variety of experiences for gardeners, nature lovers, outdoor enthusiasts and more. Located in Wytheville, Va., the farm has display gardens, classes, workshops, festivals, herbal products, offers school field trips, hiking trails, wildlife viewing, guided excursions and southwest Va.’s only native walk through butterfly house.
For more information about Beagle Ridge Herb Farms, call (276) 621-4511, visit their website at www.beagleridge.org or their Facebook page.
— Contact Emily Rice at email@example.com