You don’t have to go to the fields of Provence to experience the beauty and luxurious smell of fresh lavender. Just head to the Vineyard Artisans Festival and search out the booth of Andrea Rogers. You’ll find sheaves of fresh lavender and pillows and sachets stuffed with dried lavender. If you’re really lucky, it’ll be a day when her famous lavender cookies are available.

Gardening has long been Andrea’s passion. She first learned it from her father, who was raised in southern Italy in the 1920s and 30s. The family had an olive orchard and made bread from their own wheat fields. He brought that self-sustainability with him when he came to the United States and raised his own family.

“We grew up on Long Island and he would take us out to where the farms were,” Andrea remembers. “We would pick a bushel of everything and bring it home.

The little piece of land our own house was on was cultivated with vegetables. One day I asked him if we could grow flowers; my mother and I wanted flowers. He said, ‘well, we can’t eat them.’ But I found lavender and it grew pretty flowers [and he let me grow that]. And I was pretty much addicted to it after that. I loved the smell of it. It was calming. And very prolific: put it in once and you have it forever.”

Andrea, her late husband Jim and their three children moved to Martha’s Vineyard in 1986. At their home in Oak Bluffs, she worked hard to create soil conditions conducive to growing lavender.

“They like drainage and they can’t grow in clay,” she explains. “Our soil didn’t have a lot of nutrition in it so I augmented and enriched it with a lot of compost before I planted the lavender. You can’t just throw something into any kind of dirt and think it will grow. If you create the perfect growing conditions for lavender, you’re going to get a perfect lavender plant. That’s how it works.

I’m not afraid of hard work. I haven’t met a root I couldn’t pull out. I like it.”

The result is that her garden blooms with knee-high (and hip-high!) lavender plants of multiple varieties. Citrus trees that Andrea moves out of the greenhouse in the summer are tucked around the lavender gardens, and the vegetable garden is overflowing with zucchini and cucumbers in mid-June while she waits for some of the lavender varieties to achieve a point of harvest.

“Lavender has a mind of its own,” she says with a laugh. “The time that it blooms depends on whether we get a cold wet spring – which means it blooms later – or a hot and beautiful one, which means it comes earlier. It also depends on the variety.”

The herb is popular for its healing, calming and comforting qualities. The effect is not just a New Age claim but one validated by science. Andrea notes it is particularly effective for a common condition: sleep deprivation. She talks to a lot of older women who don’t sleep well anymore. Lavender helps to shut off the brain, calm people down and drift off to sleep.

Lavender is one multi-tasking herb!

Jeanna Shepard

“Fresh lavender will last about a week after it has been picked. I have some fresh lavender next to my bed. You don’t have to do a thing to it: I just put a rubber band around it and put it next to my bed at night. That breeze blows the smell right over you and you’re off to sleep.”

Dried lavender lasts forever, and Andrea always has some around. She uses it in the sachets and pillows that she sells, as well as in cooking. She loves to make lavender shortbread cookies.

In the last couple of years, Andrea has pulled back a bit from the non-stop market activity she used to maintain through her booth at the West Tisbury Farmers’ Market. But she is still organizing – and selling at – the Vineyard Artisans Festival, which she founded in 1995. The festival offers Island artists and craftspeople an ongoing marketplace to show and sell their handmade work. It operates at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury on Thursdays and Sundays throughout the summer, with weekend dates in the fall and up through the holiday season.

“Before the Artisans Festival, the Island had flea markets and art galleries but not crafts and fine arts together. Crafts were crafts and art was art. I thought, why shouldn’t they be together? It’s joining the best with best.”

Over the decades, the festival has become a crucial economic engine for the artists who sell their work.

“We don’t take a commission or percentage on the sale like in a gallery,” Andrea explains. “The artists are encouraged to set price points that make purchases affordable for the average person. The festival supports at least 60 to 70 families, year-round. They work hard. Every single thing they bring in has to be handmade. It has become their income for the year. They’re not going to get rich. But it pays the mortgage and bills.”

Andrea is proud that the festival is a beloved tradition for Island residents, seasonal homeowners and casual visitors alike. She has seen generations in a family cycle through, and participating artists have become friends and family together. She’s proud of how unique that experience is as much as she values the beautiful, one-of-a-kind works being shown.

“Having a piece of the Vineyard – something actually made here – that’s what our customers want. That’s what they seek out. They meet the artist and the artist explains how they made something. Now they can take this home and have a wonderful story to tell about how it was made on Martha’s Vineyard, they met the artist. It’s a very special thing.”


Find more information about the Vineyard Artisans Festival and the artists who participate by visiting

Elizabeth Bennett is a community editor at the Vineyard Gazette.