A family farm has blossomed into a thriving bath and beauty company and, more recently, a culinary subscription service due to the creativity and collaboration of an incredible mother-daughter duo.
By Christine Fellingham
“We call ourselves the keepers of the lavender,” says Allison May Horseman of her partnership with her mother Mary May in the Woodstock Lavender Company. “We both have different strengths and weaknesses that we bring to the table when working together.” Mary is the public speaker and historian for the family farm that has spawned a thriving beauty and culinary business. Allison is the dreamer whose vision helped inspire their evolution from farm to beauty and culinary empire. Says Allison, “Together, we make a great team and we have learned to balance the trials of running a successful small business together.”
Can you tell us about the history of your family’s farm?
“When the farm was started in the late 1920s, it was mostly a cattle, tobacco, and hay farm. Over the years, the farm transitioned into more row crops. The idea for the lavender did not come about until 2012.”
How did you decide to go into the lavender business?
“Mary got the idea for growing lavender from a cookbook and I was intrigued,” Allison says. “We began doing a little bit of research and visited the one other lavender farm in Kentucky. We purchased 50 plants and put them in the ground.
Today, we have about 1,000 lavender plants in 14 different varieties. Last year, we welcomed over 1,000 visitors who came to cut bouquets of lavender and enjoy food, workshops, and of course, lavender lemonade. We began to research and develop recipes to offer products for wholesale and retail. We now make and market about 23 products, making most of them ourselves in a commercial kitchen in Somerset, with the help of two part-time employees.”
What would you like other women to know about both running a farm and starting a business?
“There’s nothing easy about growing lavender or about running a small business,” Allison says. “Not only is it physically exhausting, but all of the aspects of running a small business fall on our shoulders and that can be challenging sometimes. With that said, the farm has allowed us to share our story with so many people and has allowed us to work together with our families. For me, showing my kids how to work hard to achieve something that you love is more rewarding than words can say.”
How did the idea for The Purple Spoon evolve?
“We started offering a quarterly box, called the Family box which featured products we made as well as items from other local crafters and it was very well received,” says Allison. “We liked the idea of offering a monthly subscription box, but wanted it to be different. We get a lot of questions from people about how to use lavender in food and we knew that if we could get people interested in it, we could let them experience something that was different, but delicious.”
What advice do you have for other women who have entrepreneurial ideas?
“I would tell them to find someone who can be your sounding board,” Allison says. “I also would tell them not to expect instant success. We are 10 years in, and sometimes do not pay ourselves a dime. It’s important to have the support of family and friends and realize that growth may be slower than you wish.”
When will you feel that you are successful?
“If our plants died tomorrow, and we decided to shut down the store, we would consider this venture a complete success,” Allison says. “We have taken each step of the business with gratitude. We are so thankful to have been able to share the farm and our products with so many people throughout the nation. We have been able to share our story in ways we never could have imagined. And, to top it off, we have done it by our bootstraps together. To me, that makes us a success.”
About the Woodstock Lavender Co.
As third- and fourth-generation farmers, Mary May and Allison May Horseman grow 14 varieties of lavender on land that has been in the family since 1928. Woodstock Lavender’s products are certified as Appalachian Proud, Kentucky Proud and Kentucky Crafted. For more information, visit woodstocklavender.com.