Published on Friday, July 22, 2016
For some, farming is a lifelong dream. For others, it’s an unexpected blessing. That’s the case for Marie Mayor, co-owner of Lavender Fields at Warrington Manor. She never imagined that a simple trip to tell a moving friend goodbye would open the door for her to begin farming.
“I became a farmer when I was about 56. I retired from the federal government. I had been in education for 42 years, I think. Now I’m here. My partner, Sharon, and I have been doing this for 14 years. We came out here to buy a lavender plant and the farmer was moving. She was getting married and moving to Australia to grow lavender there. We came to tell her goodbye. She said, ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do. My farm deal fell through yesterday.’ Sharon and I said, ‘Who’s your realtor?’ Just on the spur of the moment we bought a farm. It’s absolutely the truth and I tell the story because I still can’t believe I did it.”
Becoming a farmer was a quick decision for Marie, but it’s taken many years of hard work to make the agritourism farm what it is today. To start, the ladies had a lot to learn about lavender. “When we bought the farm, only thing I knew to do with lavender was to pick three stems of lavender with the flowers on it and put it in a bottle of vinegar and then have lavender vinegar.” Now the farm offers lavender sachets, wands, sleep masks, shoe sack, soap and culinary items. “Most of the things in the store we make right here. A lavender wand is a traditional gift that a groom would give a bride. It’s filled with the flowers, they’re still on the stem. They’re just bent stems down over all the flowers and then you weave the ribbon through it. You put this in with the wedding dress to preserve it because it’s a natural bug repellent.” In 2015, Lavender Fields expanded their soap business and bought the Soap Fairy company. “We make 30 or 40 different kinds of soap.” Together, Lavender Fields and Soap Fairy have grown to produce 500 bars of soap per week and offer about 150 products online.
In addition to a shop, the farm hosts weddings, an annual lavender festival, and regularly offers educational talks on lavender. The five-acre farm is home to a restored barn and beautiful flower beds. “None of it was here. It was all overgrown and grass. All this was installed by us. We had 17 women out here and one Bobcat. Everybody in the group was 40 to 72 years old and everybody got in the Bobcat. We graded it down and moved in all these flowers. We have 68 varieties of dahlias. We built the gazebo and we put in all of the bricks in the garden to form the little walk ways. There is a shed and it’s been decorated up. That’s where one of our friends has her business. It’s called the Lavender Fields Glass Shed. She takes commissions to do windows, stained glass windows. We just make the space available. For the first year or two we don’t charge any rent. Now, she pays a little bit of rent. We’ve done that with five or six different women. In 2012, we got an award from the U.S. Small Business Administration. We were selected as the outstanding business to help women entrepreneurs in Delaware.”
Most recently, an old train station was moved to the farm. “They were going to demolish it. The historical society said it wasn’t historical enough. The guy that wanted to buy it paid a dollar for it and moved it here. We paid for that, and then we restored it. It’s divided in half. One room seats 15 people for tea and the other half is a commercial kitchen. Now we’ll be able to expand what we’re able to cook and sell at the farmers markets. We do seven farmers markets in seven different towns. We’ll be making lavender scones, lavender lemon pound cake, and lavender sugar cookies.”
“I just think it’s a wonderful thing to do. I spent my whole life working in education in offices, and this is just so much better. It’s healthier. I actually commuted from here to Washington D.C. 108 miles each direction for six and a half years so I could afford to have this farm and not have a huge mortgage. I’ve been retired since 2009. We want people to feel better when they leave our farm than when they arrive.”
That’s why Marie Mayor farms.
Author: Natalina Sents
Categories: Why I Farm, Why I Farm Roadtrip
Tags: beck’s hybrids, Why I Farm, Natalina Sents, Beck’s Blog, Why I Farm Roadtrip, Delaware Farm, Marie Mayor, Lavender Fields at Warrington Manor, lavender farm