Lavender farm has right scent to lure Chinese tourists

Updated: 2014-07-31 04:50

By ELIZABETH WU in New York(China Daily USA)

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Lavender farm has right scent to lure Chinese tourists

Lavender by the Bay in East Marion, New York, attracts a large number of Chinese visitors. [Elizabeth Wu / China Daily]

North of the Hamptons on Long Island is a place called Lavender by the Bay in East Marion, New York, home to a lavender farm that attracts a large number of Chinese visitors.

Serge Rosenbaum, 64, owner of Lavender by the Bay, said visitors to his farm are mostly Chinese or Chinese Americans who live in Manhattan or other areas near New York City. "Orientals like France, they like French culture, and a lot of them cannot go to Provence, so this is the closest."

About 1,500 people visit the farm each day, 3,000 on weekends, the majority of which are Asian and Chinese, the young and old alike are enjoying lavender, said Rosenbaum.

"They come from Manhattan and North Fork," said Rosenbaum. "The Chinese like to be in nature, it makes them happy."

Three years ago the Orientals started coming. "Lavender is very popular, it is very important to people. People also come from Italy, France, and Romania," said Rosenbaum.

Rosenbaum grew up in Paris and when he was18 he moved to Israel to live on a kibbutz for 10 years where he picked up farming techniques. It was there that he met his wife Susan, an American, and together they moved to the US.

They bought a house in the neighborhood on a dune where nothing was growing. Rosenbaum used his knowledge of drip irrigation to plant lavender and eventually the plants grew so much lavender they had to give it away to friends and neighbors. He has been growing lavender for 25 years.

A decade ago Rosenbaum and his wife expanded by purchasing a 17-acre farm, now home to some 60,000 lavender plants. In 2005 they opened the farm to the public.

"We saw the opportunity for it, the American dream. If you are dedicated and work hard, you can achieve." said Rosenbaum.

Ophelia Tang, a musician and dancer from Oakland Gardens, New York, said she heard about the lavender farm from friends. "We have always seen pictures of the beautiful field of lavender and fresh green colors and wanted to see it for ourselves and of course to take some pictures," she said.

There have been two Chinese movies and a TV series about lavender said Rosenbaum. A Chinese romance movie called Lavender takes place in France's Provence region.

Rosenbaum said there was also a Chinese Romeo and Juliet type movie in 2001 where a man dies in a lavender field, which he said is "very romantic - that's why they're attracted to the lavender, they take pictures in the field."

"I think this flower stands for romantic things for Chinese, for Asians. The Chinese love France, Europe, that kind of romance," Sing Sing, a Chinese who currently lives in New York told Public Radio International.

Rosenbaum is the gatekeeper, involved with planning. "This is a real family business." he said.

Rosenbaum's wife Susan, 63, a retired public school teacher, is in charge of fashioning the farm and the shop, which sells dried lavender, sachets, lavender oil, and bath and body products.

His son, Channan, 37, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, and now does marketing for the farm.

There are two types of lavender, English, which blooms twice a year from the end of June to early July and another in September. French lavender blooms once a year from the beginning of June to the end of July for roughly six weeks.

"Lavender is fragrant, if you cut it 10 weeks later it still lasts, still smells," said Rosenbaum. "The beauty of lavender is all in the flowers, the dry ones you can keep forever."

Rosenbaum warns that the harvest season for lavender is over, and that the best time to visit the lavender farm is in late August or September when the lavender is in full boom.

Lavender by the Bay brings their products to NYC Greenmarkets, in different locations daily.