A dream and some hard work never fails. Mary Hamer returned from a trip to Washington, 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. After planting over 4,000 plants, Mary now uses the lavender she grows in a variety of products that she sells in her on-farm store. The Loess Hills Lavender Farm has grown into quite the attraction, welcoming thousands of visitors each year.
Iowa’s Very First Lavender Farm
The Loess Hills Lavendar Farm is located on the very western edge of Iowa in Missouri Valley. The geological features in the area are unique, and provide the right conditions for the delicate lavender plant to grow. Mary spent years doing research before she started the farm, and found varieties that would flourish in Iowa. At the time she started, she was the first lavender farm in Iowa. 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.
Lavender in the Looming Hills
We arrived at Mary’s on a hot summer day, and were instantly delighted at the pristine farm, tucked away between the looming hills. Mary was already off and running for the day, so we met her at the farm store to get our day started. Just walking up the front path is a treat as what seemed like hundreds of butterflies circled around, landing on us with ease.
Walking through the front doors of Loess Hills Lavendar Farm is like walking into heaven if you like the smell of lavender. The lavender products were everywhere, from sprays to oils, soaps, sachets and so much more. We followed Mary back through the doors to the kitchen. She hosts all types of events at the farm from teas to parties. While there were no events going on today, Mary was whipping up a batch of her “almost world famous” lavender sugar cookies. Mary stirs the cookies while we wandered around her to snap pictures. You can easily see this is a recipe she knows by heart. She sets the oven and we head outside for a look around the farm.
Lessons in Growth
Mary drove us up the hill to where her 4,000 lavender plants are situated. Mary told us that the first 5 years of growing lavender went great. The lavender plants were growing 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 in Iowa when growing lavender plants. A few more seasons of spring weather with drastic temperature changes followed, and it devastated her lavender plants. Now, they have replanted nearly everything with new plants of English Lavender, which is a heartier variety. Mary treats the new plants a little different by putting down a black weed mat and white limestone rock.
Next up, we head out to the pollinator habitat, full of wildflowers and native grasses as far as the eye can see. The plants are filled with bees, wasps, butterflies and other pollinators. We stop long enough for me to take a brief walk down into the field.
Now, it’s time to jump back in the UTV and head back down to the store and kitchen to check on the famous lavender cookies. The smell is almost overwhelming as Mary pulled them out of the oven. They turned out to be everything we hoped for and more. The secret trick is rolling them in lavender sugar prior to baking. The lavender taste is subtle but delicious.
The demands of the farm are great and never really stop, but Mary admits that she loves it all. It’s all so clear, from the delicious homemade cookies to the fields of flowers and the store filled with lavender goodness, a trip to the Loess Hills would not be complete without a stop to meet FarmHer Mary.