Loofahs and Lavender at Moonbeam Farm
By Melissa Gulden
A Ray of Light
Story by Melissa Gulden
Photos by Jen Peterson
ON A CLEAR springtime Saturday, when many people are out running errands, tackling yard work or riding their bikes, Carolyn “Caz” Hansen is baking 400 red velvet lavender cookies. Life on a lavender farm is exactly how it sounds – fragrant and busy.
When people think of Corning, they often think of nuts and olives; however, this fertile valley offers even more of nature’s finest—lavender and loofahs.
Located only a mile off of Interstate 5, MoonBeam Farm just happens to be the largest self-sustaining organic loofah sponge grower west of the Mississippi. And it’s an abundant lavender farm as well.
Born in New Zealand but raised in Petaluma, Hansen has farming in her blood. She remembers gardening with her parents and grandmother who grew her own “land sponge” (loofah) before it was trendy. Part of the gourd family, loofahs are grown on vines, and when the plants are in bloom in late August/early September, they produce vibrant yellow flowers. An added bonus is all of the bees those flowers attract.
“I love loofahs,” Hansen exclaims. “They have such beautiful flowers.”
You can purchase seeds for harvesting and growing your own; the best time to plant is in the spring, when there is no more danger of a hard freeze. And be sure to give the plants plenty of hanging room. Hansen has had plants grow to 25 feet high and more than 3 feet long. So leave those synthetic plastic bath sponges in the store and enjoy the experience of the natural combination of soft and exfoliating that only a home-grown loofah can give. Her loofahs also come in vibrant colors.
But those loofahs are just one of the reasons to stop by the farm. The lavender has its own story and Hansen is a walking encyclopedia of knowledge.
MoonBeam Farm boasts more than 4,000 lavender plants, and Hansen can name every family, class and variety, as well as how each is best used. One of her favorite roles she plays is that of educator. “It’s a teaching farm,” she says. “We love getting people out to the farm and then back in the studio to learn about the plants. It’s hands-on experience at the farm.”
Hansen says they educate people on the life cycles of lavender by holding classes at the farm, including lavender husbandry. They make their own herbs de Provence, which consists of 11 herbs, and use most of the varieties on site, including Royal Velvet, a soft, subtle floral used primarily for baking. (Hence, the 500 lavender red velvet cookies Hansen had just finished baking.) She participates in many
local events and hosts events at the farm. In May, there is a lavender high tea for Mother’s Day, and in June, the Harvest Festival. This year’s festival will be held June 8, when the field is in full bloom. According to Hansen, it’s a must-see.
From a modest 1,000 plants a year ago to more than 4,000 this year, MoonBeam Farm is overflowing with lavender. The general store, located in the big, red barn, boasts items for sale such as soaps and lotions, as well as a men’s line.
“When I opened the store in 2017,” Hansen remembers, “there were maybe nine or 10 products. Now we have more than 100.”
As one might imagine with life on a farm, Hansen’s weekends are filled with baking, jarring lavender sugar, sifting and sorting lavender and filling comfort bears (aromatherapy for children). But ask her whether she would want to do anything else, and the answer is clear: “This is my life. My retirement. I’m building it up.” •
3911 Columbia Ave. in Corning
(look for the big, red barn)