Washington State Magazine

Summer 2007


Summer 2007

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In This Issue...

Features

It felt like coming home :: With Lane Rawlins, Washington State University has "become what a lot of people envisioned it could be." Even though he has plenty of ideas of what to do next, it is time to hand over the presidency. by Hannelore Sudermann

The presidents :: The fledgling Washington State Agricultural College hired and fired two presidents in two years. But then Enoch Bryan arrived, with his vision of a college of science and technology "shot through and through with the spirit of the liberal arts." Since Bryan, the succeeding presidents of Washington State University have established something of a rhythmic cycle of stirring things up and reconciliation, with lots of good drama and ideas mixed in. by Tim Steury

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Our Story: WSU presidents I have known (or known of) :: The secretary of Glenn Terrell and Clement French gives the lowdown on her former bosses and their predecessors. by Gen De Vleming }

Counting cougs :: Between 1995, the year before Washington banned the hunting of cougars with hounds, and 2000, the number of human-cougar encounters nearly quadrupled. Although encounters have returned to pre-ban levels in some areas, the public perception is that cougars are making a comeback—and must be stopped. But Hillary Cooley and Rob Wielgus insist that much of what we think we know about cougars is wrong. And their argument rests with the young males. by Cherie Winner

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Gallery: Counting Cougs :: Stalking the wild—and elusive—cougar with graduate student Hilary Cooley in northeastern Washington. A photo gallery by Robert Hubner. }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Gallery: Project CAT :: In September 2006, photographer Robert Hubner joined graduate students Hilary Cooley and Ben Maletzke on a trip to capture and collar a cougar kitten, with the help of students from the Cle Elum-Roslyn schools' Project CAT. }

Biology by the numbers:: In normal times, Europe's brown bears live in a state of happy equilibrium. But under certain circumstances, things can go seriously awry, leading the males to commit what researcher Robert Wielgus calls sexually selected infanticide. Wielgus's most powerful tool against this eventuality is math. by Cherie Winner

Hops & beer :: Raising the raw ingredients for beer can be just as complex and interesting as growing grapes for wine, says Jason Perrault '97, '01. Like grapes, hops have different varieties and characteristics. Perrault, fourth-generation heir to a hops-farming legacy, runs a hops breeding program for Yakima Valley growers, helping to ensure that Washington continues to provide three-quarters of the hops grown in this country. by Hannelore Sudermann

Panoramas

:: World Class. Face to Face. It's not a slogan, it's a plan. President Rawlins shares some parting thoughts on the eve of his retirement.

:: Questioning the questions

:: Happy—and healthy—ever after

Departments

:: FOOD AND FORAGE: It's rhubarb pie time!

:: SPORTS: Baseball's my game

:: SPORTS: Hoop dreams

Tracking

Cover: V. Lane Rawlins steps down as WSU's ninth president, having given the University a stronger sense of itself and its role in the state. Read the story. Illustration by Steve O'Brien.

Panoramas
Even as they pursued their main careers, Cathy '68 and Leeon '68 Angel raised llamas for 16 years near Issaquah. They decided to forego livestock in their 'retirement' and now work double-time as the largest wholesale lavender growers around Sequim.

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Even as they pursued their main careers, Cathy '68 and Leeon '68 Angel raised llamas for 16 years near Issaquah. They decided to forego livestock in their 'retirement' and now work double-time as the largest wholesale lavender growers around Sequim. Robert Hubner

Lavender dries in the Angels' barn, which formerly housed cows. The Angels promised the previous owner that they would not take the land out of agriculture.

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Lavender dries in the Angels' barn, which formerly housed cows. The Angels promised the previous owner that they would not take the land out of agriculture. Robert Hubner

The lavender barn.

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The lavender barn. Robert Hubner

Lavender.

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Robert Hubner

Barbara Collier Hanna '81

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When Barbara Collier Hanna '81 abandoned the software industry of Seattle to become a lavender farmer, 'the first couple of months out here, if felt like I'd just jumped out of an airplane without a parachute.' Seven years later, the pastoral lifestyle seems to suit her just fine. Robert Hubner

Lavender.

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Robert Hubner

Lavender.

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Robert Hubner

Lavender.

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Robert Hubner

Hanna grows 120 varieties of lavender on her three acres.

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Hanna grows 120 varieties of lavender on her three acres. Robert Hubner

Hanna hires local youths to help with the harvest in July.

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Hanna hires local youths to help with the harvest in July. Robert Hubner

Lavender.

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Robert Hubner

Garden shed.

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Robert Hubner

A lavender landscape

by | © Washington State University

The landscape west of Sequim has, no doubt, always been beautiful. There's an obvious advantage to having the foothills of the Olympics on the near horizon. But add fields of lavender, and you have jaw-drop stunning.

Beauty is obviously a constant here. But where Cathy '68 and Leeon '68 Angel planted their lavender seven years ago, dairy cows once grazed. And not too long before that, you might have seen a band of Clallam people heading across the meadow toward the Dungeness River to fish. Or north toward Sequim or Dungeness bays to dig shellfish.


Lavender is a recent development around Sequim. By the 1990s, more traditional agriculture in Clallam County had slipped into a steady, sadly predictable, decline toward development. In response, a group of local citizens gathered to figure out a way to keep area farmland from sprouting too many weekend condos. Then someone thought of lavender, a Mediterranean plant ideally suited to Sequim's mild, dry climate.

When lavender started blooming around the valley, the Angels had already moved to Sequim from Issaquah and were raising llamas on another property not too far from here. When their current property came up for sale, they promised the owner they would keep the land in agriculture. And so they have, adding a strong wholesale component to the area's growing lavender-based agritourism economy.

A couple of miles away, Barbara Collier Hanna '81 runs Lost Mountain Lavender. Whereas the Angels retail their products through their shop, All Things Lavender, in Pike Place Market, and open their farm to the public for only a few days in July during the annual Lavender Festival, Hanna's farm is open much of the year. She opens her field of lavender to customers who want to pick their own and tends a small shop on the property, where she sells lavender-based products ranging from soap to honey from bees that have grazed on lavender. She makes many of the products herself, including lavender-filled pillows and sachets. Even though she does a lively business over the Internet, 80 percent of her sales take place at her farm.

If the physical move to Sequim was not far for Hanna and the Angels, the career move was dramatic. Hanna and her husband Gary—now a freelance illustrator—were very successful in the '90s Seattle software boom. But the nosedive of the industry in 2000 prompted a change in direction.

"For 25 years, I convinced myself I liked the security of working for somebody else," says Hanna. "And there's something very nice about the consistency of paychecks and having your benefits paid."

But following the demise of her company, which had only recently thrived with the rest of the industry, "I guess I came to not trust that as much anymore."

Leeon Angel had not expected to be helping his wife run such a successful agricultural business when he retired following 30 years with his accounting partnership in downtown Seattle. His retirement present to himself, an elegant French-made airplane, sits idle on a landing strip nearby for most of the farming season. His time is consumed instead by the vintage seed cleaner that he modified to clean the lavender buds not only for their crop but also that of Hanna and other growers.

Cathy Angel majored in sociology at Washington State University, then switched fields to become project manager for a commercial food-freezing equipment company.

Although the Angels had raised llamas for 16 years, they decided, when Leeon retired, that animals tied them down too much and so looked for a different form of agriculture. "We decided maybe a crop would be fun," says Cathy.

Now, as the largest wholesale producer in the valley and with 30,000 bundles of lavender drying in the barn, the irony of that move is hardly lost on them.

Sequim has come to refer to itself as the "Lavender Capital of North America." Even though the valley's production is miniscule in relation to the world market, their niche is unique. Provence, for example, from which the Sequim growers drew their inspiration, devotes most of its lavender production toward the distillation of lavender oil rather than toward value-added products and lavender-focused tourism.

Hanna's love of gardening plus an apparently equal love of variety has resulted in her three-acre farm supporting 120 different varieties of lavender, from the large, deep-blue-blossomed Grosso to Melissa, an English culinary lavender with a peppery taste. Hanna is doing more of her own propagation, as it can be hard to get some varieties through other growers.

The Angels have kept their varietal retinue to 14, with their dominant variety being Grosso, which lends itself nicely to floral arrangements as well as buds for processing into other products. They have also started growing Goldenseal, a high-value, medicinal root crop that takes years to mature. They may start harvesting next year—if they have the time.

Even though lavender's history as a medicinal, culinary, and floral plant reaches back beyond Roman times, lavender as an agricultural enterprise is new to North America. There is no ready market for bulk lavender, and so the growers of Sequim have drawn lavenderphiles to their fields, through hard work, enterprising marketing, and enhancing an already beautiful landscape.

Categories: Agriculture, Alumni, Business | Tags: Agritourism, Lavender

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