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If hindsight is 20/20, Nicole Locke might not do anything different about the year 2020. Nine months into the COVID-19 pandemic, she lost her stable job. With extra time to look for a new one, she was distracted by researching her dreams on the internet.
The Scott, Arkansas resident paused and asked herself, “What do I want to do that really makes me happy?” One of her favorite hobbies is caring for her plants. There is something healing about caring for something else, especially when she needed to also care for herself, and her heart.
Locke has always wanted some land: a place to spread out, garden and set up a homestead. One day, while looking for jobs, she got distracted by a new piece of land available in Scott and switched her search to real estate properties. She drove to visit the property, and a gut feeling just told her this would be the place.
When she and her husband, Chris, first bought the property, it was covered with soybeans, but Locke knew that was not her goal. Instead, it was time to chase her dreams with a beautiful piece of property on 10 acres on the back of Old River Lake.
“My husband asked me what I was going to do with the land. I told him lavender was my dream, but I wasn’t even sure if we could grow lavender in Arkansas or on that piece of land.”
Locke used a couple of resources to help her investigate plant options and learn about establishing a lavender farm: A lavender consultant from Portland, Oregon, and the local the University of Arkansas Department of Agriculture Cooperative Extension office line.
Locke, who has always had a green thumb, and whose mother was a gardener, never expected to be a full-blown farmer. The Arkansas Extension Office provided significant support. Because they usually deal with cotton and soybean farmers, they were surprised to hear from a lavender farmer. They quickly became part of the support team for Locke as she worked on determining the mixture needed to neutralize the soil on the farm and conducted her weekly pH testing.
The extension office helped her determine where she needed to plant on the land, what to add to the soil to neutralize the balance, and how to build up the rows for irrigation. Locke also joined the National Lavender Growers Association, a community of like-minded individuals who are mutually supportive and passionate about the same crops and helping each other.
Natural State Lavender Company planted its first 30 plants in 2020, and they did well under the recommendations offered. Locke planted 600 more for her first season. But she was still scared to tell people what she was doing. Her consultant challenged her to tell people she was growing lavender and push beyond the fear of failure. Instead of “what if it fails,” it was time to start thinking, “what if it happens!”
Lavender is not considered “mature” until its third growing season. So those baby plants are mature this summer and fall with 1,000 more planted around them. Locke’s ultimate goal is to reach 3,000 plants by adding new crops each spring. Then she wants to expand their line of products and interactions with the plants like a U-pick experience.
Natural State Lavender Company is committed to not using harsh chemicals as they cultivate two varieties on the farm:
Lavender has taken its place in pop culture, and personal use popularity; people love lavender! In 2020, lavender was the herb of the year; one more notion that Nicole and Chris Locke made the right decision at the right time.
All pictures in this article are used with permission from Natural State Lavender Co.
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