Unique farm serves as agritourism hotspot in Harrison county
Like many successful entrepreneurs, Tim and Mary Hammer fell in love with a business model, identified a market, and launched their business venture. The Hammers are transplants to the Loess Hills, and grow lavender on a hillside near Missouri Valley. The Hammers’ successful start-up lavender farm and western Iowa agritourism destination has earned the couple this month’s Iowa Farm Bureau ‘Renew Rural Iowa’ (RRIA) Entrepreneur Award.
Hundreds of visitors stop by the Hammers’ Loess Hills Lavender Farm each year to take in the beautiful scenery and witness the diversity of Iowa agriculture. The Loess Hills Lavender Farm is considered a hidden treasure to those who have visited.
Mary Hammer recalls a 2005 trip with Tim to visit their son in the State of Washington, and a visit to a lavender farm, which had quickly become a multimillion-dollar agritourism destination in the Northwest. “I walked into the lavender field and fell in love,” Hammer says. “I immediately thought, ‘I have to do this in Iowa!’”
After a great deal of research and studying the agronomy of growing lavender, the Hammers found that the sloping hills and unique soil makeup in the Loess Hills is ideal for raising lavender. The Loess Hills Lavender Farm was established in 2009, and now the Hammers host visitors on the farm May through October. Visitors to the farm can walk through the fields, pick lavender flowers and visit a shop that features items made from local craftsmen.
Additionally, the farm features a boutique with lavender items including creams, lotions and sprays. The fresh cut lavender is distilled for its oil and is then used in all of the available products. Mary Hammer found the recipes for the products and fine-tuned them until they were ready to be sold to visitors.
Derek Mether, who farms next to the lavender farm and serves as President of the Harrison County Farm Bureau, is impressed with the Hammers’ success and the positive impact on the surrounding community. “They started on a fairly small acreage and specialize in the niche market of producing lavender in the Loess Hills. They’re doing a great job expanding and creating a market for their product,” Mether says. “Value-added agriculture adds farmers to the countryside as well. Anytime we can keep more people on the farm and in rural Iowa, it’s a great thing.”
RRIA is an Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) initiative supporting new and existing businesses through education, mentoring, and financial resources. For more information about the next RRIA Business Success Seminar, “The Journey to Your Vision,” on September 22 in Winterset, go to www.renewruraliowa.com.