Elgin Women in Food (2019): Six Women Leading the Way

EatDrink The LOCAL Food & Drink Magazine (April 2019)

Suzanne Steed’s response to women in business, in three words: “Creative. Determined. Confident.”

With a passion for gardening and landscape design, I developed an agri-tourism business where we provide visitors with an experience for the senses. I have developed all of our handcrafted products as well as our culinary line of lavender inspired food products. I also manage the day-to-day operations at our farm.

Operating a farm brings new challenges every day and there is always something going on. I enjoy these challenges, even though I sometimes struggle through the difficult ones. But when a visitor comes to me and says, “Thank you for creating a beautiful place to visit,” it makes me smile and feel very proud of what I do.

There is absolutely an element of artistry in what I do! I take a lovely, fragrant herb (lavender) and create many specialty culinary products. For example using this herb in our culinary products can be tricky as it can overpower foods, so I’m always aiming to achieve a balance that is both interesting and enjoyable to the palate.

When you’re a business owner, you’re always thinking about your business. I can’t describe what it’s like to be in the zone, because I’m never out of it. I’m always mulling over different ideas, conducting research and finding that inspiration comes to me at all hours, including in the middle of the night. Recently, I was thinking about our jams and wondering about what a combination of lavender and orange would be like. How would the flavour interact with the citrus notes?

With our culinary products, I create the recipes, and pass them along to production, but with our soaps, I’m often creating them — so I’m in a productive zone then too. Plus, when I’m out in the community, I find that my business has become part of my identity. I was just in the grocery store and had someone come up to me and ask, “Aren’t you the lavender lady?” My business is always there. It becomes a part of who you are, and I’m sure any business owner could relate.

It always amazes me how people never think to consider lavender as an edible herb. After travelling through France, eating at French restaurants and speaking to many people who live there, I found that lavender is a popular ingredient in many dishes — from desserts to main courses featuring fish and chicken.

Lavender is the same family as mint. If you look at a lavender spike, it’s square — and if you look at a mint stem, it’s square also. We’re familiar with mint’s strong flavour, and lavender’s strength is similar. However, lavender has the ability to really enhance flavours. We have a raspberry-strawberry preserve, and lavender picks up the raspberry and helps it pop. It also enhances the flavour of our dark chocolate, and the vanilla in our ice cream. It’s remarkable in that way: it enhances whatever you use it with, but adds a floral note.

I hope that our lavender farm offers visitors an opportunity to escape from their hectic lives, to a peaceful rural setting, where they can stroll amongst the millions of beautiful lavender flowers from mid-June to mid-July. I encourage visitors to learn many of the great attributes this herb has to offer, including; growing, harvesting and cooking with lavender.