When most people think of agriculture in Alabama, they think of cotton or corn…maybe pecans, beans, sweet potatoes, or tomatoes…the typical roadside stand crops. But lavender?!? It turns out lavender, the vibrant purple plant native to Africa, Australia, India, and Southern Europe, can be found growing on Alabama farms too.
Brandon & Brooke Creel, owners of Plow & Field Lavender Farm in Boaz, Alabama, began experimenting with lavender farming because Brandon was looking for a relaxing retirement goal. He was turned onto the crop when he received four lavender plants from his family for Father’s Day. He then sold a vehicle in order to buy 430 more lavender plants and the amendments Alabama soil requires to grow the Mediterranean crop. Three years later, the Creels now sell dried bouquets and sachets at local farmer’s markets and look forward to opening up for u-pick days in the future.
Kate and Norman Groff, owners of Grand Oaks Farm atop Sand Mountain in Dekalb County, bought their turn of the century farmhouse and surrounding 24 acres when they fled “the big city”. They fell in love with the beauty, wildlife and serenity their new home had to offer and soon felt God calling them to open their land up for others to experience too. Lavender, a plant known for its calming properties, seemed like just the ticket. Grand Oak Farms welcomes guests by appointment for photography sessions in their lavender fields, tours, private events, and u-pick flower “flushes”. They sell their product in the form of wreaths and bundles dried in their drying barn, oil, culinary items, and soaps.
Interested in incorporating the beautiful crop into your lifestyle? Alabama lavender farmers Brandon Creel and Kate Groff shared three ways to use lavender in and around your home.
- Fragrance – If you’ve ever been around lavender, you know it. Commonly used in candles, perfume, bath and cleaning products, the lavender scent is distinct, fresh, and sweet. Plus, lavender is easy to dry, preserving its aroma for at least two-three years.“Our bundles from last year’s harvest smell just as good as this year’s,” Creel shared. He also shared an expert tip…he said some of his customers place a small sachet on top of their lampshades so that the heat from the lamp activates the scent even more, filling their homes with sweetness.
- Relaxation – Most people know that smelling lavender has calming qualities, which is another reason it makes a great scent for bath products and linen spray. Groff shared that Grand Oaks Farms distills oil in a beautiful copper still on site, and some of her customers keep small bottles of it in their purse, briefcase, and/or car to use as “emergency relaxation”.
- Culinary Creations – Both the Creel and Groff families have experimented cooking with lavender. Grand Oaks Farm makes lavender syrup, lavender cookies, and lavender tea, and these can often be sampled on their farm tours. Brooke Creel likes to use lavender in her tea as well and to make lavender cupcakes. If you are someone who likes to get creative in the kitchen, the possibilities are endless for unique lavender delicacies!
It is truly amazing all that is growing in Alabama’s backyard, and the lavender farms peppering the state are proof of Alabama’s agricultural diversity. Visit Sweet Grown Alabama to find out what is fresh and local in your neck of the woods.