Purple Power: Centralia lavender farm finds its niche

Purple Power: Centralia lavender farm finds its niche
"They're all beautiful," said Katie Lockwood of Centralia's Battlefield Lavender of the different varieties. [Nathan Lilley]
By: 
Dave Faries
Editor

In a region where farms count hundreds of acres of corn and soybeans, Katie and Jason Lockwood’s plot outside of Centralia is noticeably different.

They own just three acres of tillable soil, for one.

But after just a few years of effort, they can claim success. They erected a new barn this spring and found a growing demand for their crop.

Lavender. That’s right, lavender.

“It’s pretty finicky,” Katie Lockwood admitted. “There’s some trick to it — It wants sunny spots, well drained soil.”

Lockwood did her research and found that out of more than 450 documented varieties, 14 would survive — even thrive — the sometimes severe whims of north central Missouri weather. After testing different plants on a portion of the land, they planted a full crop last spring.

The result is impressive. Battlefield Lavender (the farm is close to Centralia’s Civil War battlefield) turned the crop into a line of scented soaps, sachets, aromatherapy items, decorative bundles, sugar, salt, jellies and more.

Lockwood added that lavender ice cream crossed her mind. “But I need to partner with someone,” she said with a laugh. “I don’t have a cow.”

She points out that success of the unique farm is the result of advice and help from friends and neighbors who brought decades of field experience to their attention, as well as borrowed implements. A retired farmer across the way has been happy to ride his tractor over.

“From the beginning I had faith that people would see the wonder in this,” Lockwood said.

But she also knew that success would not come without persistence. The couple had lived in Columbia — both work at the University of Missouri — and decided to introduce their products at the farmer’s market there.

They gained such a following that when they put up the barn, which is used to dry the flowers, they added a store. People had already been dropping by, some to purchase items, others simply to wander through rows and rows of aromatic plants.

“It’s just so fascinating,” Lockwood explained. “It’s hard not to love it once you get into it.”

The family moved to the Centralia area from Columbia in 2011. Katie Lockwood had always grown fruits and vegetables, so they planted blackberry bushes and continued to till hobby crops.

Centralia suits them nicely.

“My heart was in small towns,” she explained. “That was my sense of comfort and home.”

Battlefield Lavender is still new. Lockwood may expand on the product line. But for now she just plans to keep getting the word out... and bask in the scent wafting from the fields.

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