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The Sweet Smell of Success

Woodinville Lavender field

Carol Hook

Tom Frei went from engineering rockets to thriving as a lavender farmer and wedding planner.

There are a lot of stereotypes about wedding characters: demanding bride, evil mother-in-law, over-the-top wedding planner. That last one is usually depicted as a woman with bouffant hair, hauling a pricey rental chandelier. Tom Frei does not fit that silly old trope. He’s the owner of a private event space and lavender farm, Woodinville Lavender, in Redmond, Washington. Prior to this second act career, he was busy putting Mars landers into space as a rocket scientist. Frei spent 26 years in the aerospace industry. “Everything I did was to get things into space or keep things in space,” he explains. “GPS satellites, weather satellites. The Cassini spacecraft that went to Saturn, I got to work on that. I worked on multiple of the Mars landers with the airbag lander—we did the propulsion for that.” Yet, he began calculating another kind of launch. “I had this feeling I wanted my own business and something totally different. I kept thinking, ‘What’s my passion? What do I love?’ I grew up on a farm, so plants and agriculture felt good,” says Frei, who spent his youth on a 1,500-acre grain farm in northe …

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