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Living, Learning, Lavender

FarmHer Mary Hamer

Mary Hamer returned from a trip to Washington state determined to start a lavender farm in her home state of Iowa. Once she found the right farm (and bid on it herself at an auction), Mary and her husband started the Loess Hills Lavender Farm in Iowa in 2010, planting over 4000 plants. Mary uses the lavender she grows in a variety of products which she sells in her on-farm store. The Loess Hills Lavender farm has grown into quite the attraction, welcoming thousands of visitors each year.

The Loess Hills on the very western edge of Iowa are a geological feature that are very unique and provide just the right growing conditions and soil for the delicate lavender plant to grow. Mary spent years doing research before she started the farm and found varieties that would flourish on the farm. At the time she got started, hers was the first lavender farm in Iowa.

The first five years of growing lavender went great, according to Mary. The lavender plants grew beautifully. Then, they were hit with a drought. Mary learned the hard way that she can’t take what people do in other states and do it the same way here when growing lavender plants. A few more seasons of very inclement spring weather with drastic temperature changes followed and it devastated her lavender plants. Now they have replanted nearly everything with 400 new plants of English Lavender, which is a heartier variety. Mary is treating the new plants a little differently than her first set, putting down a black weed mat and white limestone rock over that.

In addition to lavender, Mary has converted a 10-acre field into a pollinator habitat where visitors can explore and pick bouquets of beautiful Iowa wildflowers, in the midst of native grasses as far as the eye can see. The plants are absolutely filled with bees, wasps, butterflies and other pollinators.

The demands of the farm are great and never really stop, but Mary admits that she loves it all.

BONUS: Check out Mary’s recipe for her “Almost World Famous” Lavender Sugar Cookies