Iwould never have imagined,” Paige Nester says, looking out a window onto the rows of mature lavender plants behind Creek House Honey Farm. In one part of the building, employees are ringing up purchases of all-natural honey and beeswax products. Others are busy in the kitchen, preparing for the lunchtime rush at the kitchen and bar top of Honey Buzz Winery.

Next door, employees and construction workers complete the final stages of a 5,000-square-foot event and manufacturing building—partially funded by grants from the WT Enterprise Center Enterprize Challenge and the Canyon EDC—that will enable Creek House to increase its honey production and manufacturing, including wholesale distribution of its award-winning mead and popular skincare products across the United States. Right now, Creek House products are available in about half of the U.S. Soon, they’ll grow even further.

Then there are the beehives, located a few hundred yards away on trailers—which allow them to be moved, when necessary, for pollination. “Everything is based around a creature we have to have,” Paige says of the bees that make Creek House products possible. “I love educating people about bees. That’s the heart of it all.”

Located east of Canyon on Fourth Avenue, between the city and I-27, the bee-based business is located on approximately 100 acres. It started in 2010 when Paige and George Nester were helping their daughters grow pumpkins, and turned to bees as pollinators. Two hobby hives turned into four hives, then eight hives, and suddenly the couple had a lot more honey than they could consume.

Beekeeping quickly turned into a family business. Within a few years, the small business had transformed into a (literally) buzzing, multi-building production facility with 42 employees and products in 20 states—all sourced from the Creek House apiary. 

Lavender Love

Bees are highly attracted to the fragrant purple flowers of lavender plants, which have a lengthy blooming season and offer a reliable source of nectar. The aroma of the plants wafts throughout the property. The farm’s bees flit from one sprig to the next.

But lavender is not just on the menu for local insects.

Over the past couple of years, Creek House has hosted an August Lavender Festival, allowing members of the public to cut their own bundles of the fragrant herb. (This year’s festival is Saturday, Aug. 17.)

“The smell is fantastic,” Paige says about lavender, which has been celebrated and cultivated for thousands of years across a variety of cultures. “The smell is anti-anxiety right there. It’s one of my favorite herbs of all time. It does so many good things.”

One of those things is adding a subtle floral element to food. Creek House creates lavender cookies, lavender lemonade and other delicacies for the festival, and Paige was kind enough to give Brick & Elm a sneak peek.

Cooking with lavender begins, of course, with food-grade lavender, also known as culinary lavender. “It’s important to know where your lavender’s coming from,” Paige says. “You can’t put any kind of pesticides or herbicides on it. At the bee farm, we can’t do that.” High-quality culinary lavender, which is available fresh or dried, also has less oil than the more aromatic kind used in lotions, and keeps food from tasting too soapy or perfumy. [Note from Brick & Elm: Stick to culinary lavender in the kitchen. Lavender essential oil is not safe for ingestion and shouldn’t be used for cooking.]

Lavender buds are more potent dry than fresh, so use sparingly. Dry fresh lavender flowers by hanging them upside down in a warm and dry place. After removing stems, grind the buds to add it to cakes or cookies, or steep with honey or sugar to make a simple syrup (see recipe).

“Lavender has so many health properties,” says Paige. “It’s just good for you. It calms you down. It helps you sleep. It relaxes you.”

As buzzy as things have been lately at Creek House, she’ll take a moment of tranquility anywhere she can get it.

Lavender Shortbread Cookies

1 cup butter, at room temperature (2 sticks)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup powdered sugar
1 lemon, zested
½ cup cornstarch
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon lavender buds

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and vanilla extract until creamed. Add powdered sugar and lemon zest; mix until combined. Combine flour and cornstarch in a separate container. Scrape mixing bowl down and add flour mixture while beating on low. Scrape bowl once more and mix until combined. Shape the dough into a loaf, wrap in plastic and chill until firm, or at least an hour. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough to ¼-inch thickness. Flour the dough, then use a cookie stamp to shape the dough. Press firmly and evenly, but not all the way through the dough. Cut around each shape with a circle cookie cutter or any shape desired. (Optional: Paint with edible gold dust.) Place cookies, spaced at least an inch apart, onto a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Bake for 6 minutes, rotating baking sheet in the oven and baking an additional 6 minutes. If using a convection oven, set oven to 325 degrees, and bake for the same amount of time. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Makes 16 cookies

Lavender Lemonade

1 ½ cups honey
12 cups warm water
1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, fresh lemon juice (4 to 7 lemons, depending on size of lemons)
1 tablespoon dried lavender

Make a lavender simple syrup: In a saucepan, mix ½ cup honey and lavender together. Add water (rub or break up the lavender beforehand to make it fragrant). Bring mixture to a boil and stir until the honey is dissolved. Remove from heat and let steep for 30 minutes. Strain mixture and set aside.

To make lemonade: Mix remaining cup honey and 11 cups warm water until honey is dissolved. Add lemon juice and mix well. Stir in simple syrup; mix well. Chill to serve over ice with a sprig of lavender, if desired.

Makes 1 gallon