The Lavender Patch is our small, family-owned lavender farm in Southeast Kansas. Originally thought up in 2009, and started in 2010 with our "practice plot" to see how it would go, we've been going strong now for 11 years.
In 2011, we moved from our long-time home in town out to the farm, using that year for more research and prep for starting a full-fledged lavender farm. We began planting in earnest in 2012 and haven't looked back since. Our
lavender farm has come a long way since then. Days, weeks, and even years of planning, then prepping, trial and error (some days more error than success), harvesting, and making has gone into our farm to get us to where we are now.
In one way or another, family, extended family, friends, even other growers and entrepreneurs, have all helped create our Lavender Patch and we are so thankful that they have as we would not be where we are without them. We are always thrilled to have people visit and enjoy the hard work so many have put in to our lavender fields.
CONTINUE TO OUR HISTORY
Through the years we have prepared ground, removed rocks, dug holes, removed bigger rocks, planted lavender, removed even bigger rocks, and weeded and weeded some more.
Some of the plants have made it but many have not. We have switched patches because one was too rocky (as in HUGE rocks) and one was too wet, so now we are where we think is just right.
We've learned many things since be began that we wish we had known from the start. For various reasons, many being circumstances beyond our control, we have lost many, many plants through the years. However, our dream has remain and we remember that this is farming and so, however crazy it may be, we continue and persevere.
Our dream for the lavender farm took shape in 2009, while in California to be with Davin's brother and sister-in-law, Daryl and Erlinda, and their family. We visited Lavender Hollow, a lavender farm in Escalon, CA and had a good conversation with the owners. We came back to Kansas with many new ideas and started working to make this dream a reality.
2010 we tilled and planted a test plot to see how it would fair. Many did fine but we learned a few things. Some plants were planted too close to a line of trees and didn't do very well (not enough sun). But, we had enough success to decide to jump feet first into this endeavor and kept going.
In June 2011 we moved from in town to the farmhouse where our lavender farm is located at the time (next door to where we are now). Because of the time involved and everything happening, not much happened on the farm this summer in terms of planting more plants. In 2012 we were ready to really get started with our crazy dream. We decided to plant on the patch of land behind our home. A lot of prep work had to take place before we could plant anything, so we dug up and moved thousands of rocks, many so large it took 2-3 people to move. Once the ground was prepped, we were ready to begin planting. We read that it is good to "mound" the lavender plants when you plant them. We did this for two of our patches but quickly realized it would be difficult to mow around, so we didn't continue this.
That year the plants looked good and through the winter too. However, when spring came we realized our mistake. As the plants grew, obviously the roots did too and they grew close to the surface because of the mounding rather than being in the ground. So... because of the freezing temperatures we get in our winters, we lost all of our initial lavender plants, about 300 or so. Fortunately the ones we decided not to mound survived.
After removing the dead plants, mainly Provence and Grosso, we replanted. Three additional patches were added, as well as a demonstration plot to see how they would do. Many plants in the demo plot did not survive because they were varieties that aren't the best for our environment. Rain was also a factor. A couple of our patches were completely wiped out after a huge rainstorm. As hard as it was, we were starting to think this patch was not going to work.
In April 2013, a severe hailstorm hit Fort Scott and surrounding areas. Up to baseball size hail damaged many houses, vehicles, and businesses throughout the county. On our patch, the tulips looked as though they had gone through a shredder! All flowers were gone, tree leaves stripped away, and the ground had indentations where hail had hit. We were scared to see the damage to the lavender but when we checked, we were pleasantly surprised that they were not in too bad of shape. Some of them were divided in half from the force of the hail, but it did not break or kill them, which was huge a relief.
The following year, 2014, we started a new patch in a new area. We were excited as this patch was on a slight southern slope with very few rocks that needed dug out, and in a beautiful area of our land. We made 20 rows, 60 ft long, 7 feet apart. We planted some plants and they seemed to do well. The next year we expanded.
In 2015 we ordered lavender plants from two sources. One was one we had received plants from before but one was new. That spring and summer we had record breaking rains. It was not dry enough to plant the lavender until June 10 and even then it was between rains! We had the plants for almost a month waiting to be planted. It was a RAINY spring as everyone around (and throughout Kansas and Missouri) knew! It took us a week to get the plants in the ground but we did it. They looked good and we were excited. We started having problems with grasshoppers, enough so that they pretty much ate all the Hidcote Lavender. We were not sure (and still don't know) if it was the Hidcote variety they liked or because it was on the outside row of the patch. Either way, they ate them until not much was left.
The weekend after we planted we left for a week-long family reunion. When we came back, they were mostly all dead. The ones that weren't were dead before the week was out. We were devastated. We called our source and found out about a fungus many lavender farmers across the nation were dealing with, Phythophthora nicotianae (Pn), It is mainly spread by water so if it is in your ground, the plants will die and it will never go away.
After being advised to send samples off to Kansas State University to be tested by plant pathology, we did, but the results were negative for Pn. Thus, the extremely wet and rainy weather conditions were probably the cause. Although our plants didn't have Pn, we decided to move our fields to hopefully help solve the water issue. Plus, it was closer to our house where people can see them from the road.
We went back to this north field in 2016 and planted around 300 new plants. We also transplanted about 80 from the previous location, the original plot, to this new plot. In some ways, with all our losses we felt we were starting over. However, we often tell ourselves that this is farming at its best.
In 2017 we planted around 500 plants, which did pretty well. And about another 100 in 2018. During the years of 2018, and especially 2019, we had a lot of rain. And I mean LOTS of rain. Lavender doesn't like rain and our ground is not slanted enough to keep all the water away, so we continue to have some losses because of this. We typically replace these with a new plant the following year, but when visiting our fields, you will see empty spots here and there because of this.
In 2020 the higher-than-normal rains continued and, at first, our plants struggled. But, as is such with Kansas weather, it wasn't long before it was almost too dry even for lavender. It is always interesting to note that even though you'd think the lavender should be dead from all the rain, many, many of them persist and continue to bloom despite the weather conditions.
The winter of 2020-21 is one to remember... or to forget! We had lots of snow cover which is great for lavender because the snow provides nitrogen, but, more importantly, snow acts as an insulator providing protection from cold winds. However, in February 2021 the temps dropped down to -15 below zero and stayed there. At this time, the plants were surrounded by snow and we could only hope and pray that would be enough to save them.
As spring came along, it looked as though most, if not all, our plants had died. However, slowly, ever so slowly, we started seeing peeks of green, but still lots of dead parts too. We realized that the parts of the plants that were above snow cover had died (known as "winter kill"), but those under the snow did okay. All of our young and smaller plants survived, but many of our oldest and biggest established plants had a lot of winter kill. HOWEVER, most all of our plants had new growth coming from the base - this was a wonderful sight! We trimmed off the dead parts so the new growth could have the air circulation and sun exposure, and, now, they are coming around just fine! In a couple years or so, we think the plants will look back to normal!
So, when you com this year, you will see some wonky looking, but live, plants. This is just part of our story and part of farming! There will probably always be spots where a plant didn't make it, sometimes even most of an entire row. But, to us, this is part of the experience of growing lavender. It isn't just about the beauty (although that is a huge part!), but what goes behind that beauty; the rough and tough stuff that lets us appreciate the beauty we come to see and love.
In the last few years, have expanded by going to more shows, farmers markets, and opening our gift shop, as well as having an annual Lavender Fest on the third Saturday in June.
Thank you for taking the time to learn a bit about our history. If you have any question, we'll be happy to answer!
The Lavender Patch Farm