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Bergstrom's field of dreams is colored lavender

By Jim Fair, Editor
Published on Thursday, August 13, 2015

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Tim and Mary Bergstrom had planned for years to own their own business, and always loved lavender.
 

Jim Fair

Tim and Mary Bergstrom had planned for years to own their own business, and always loved lavender.

 



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Mary Bergstrom has a display of products manufactured from lavender.
 
 

Jim Fair

Mary Bergstrom has a display of products manufactured from lavender.

 

 



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Mary and Tim visited parts of the country that had fields of lavender. It helped convince them of the beauty and rewards of the business.
 
 

Mary and Tim visited parts of the country that had fields of lavender. It helped convince them of the beauty and rewards of the business.

 

 

Down on Mary and Tim Bergstrom’s Southern Hills Lavender farm the smell, touch, look and taste is lavender.

“Some people don’t realize it’s a plant. They think it’s a smell," Mary said.

The aroma from an oven convinced the Bergstroms there was a use for lavender in food.

Sheila Springfield, owner of the Chocolate Toad in downtown Greer, had baked shortbread and sugar lavender cookies. “We started with shortbread and went from there,” Springfield said. “Shortbread made a prettier presentation because you see the lavender in the bread and on the glaze.”

“You can cook everything with it,” Mary said. “I experimented with it in roasts, using it in chicken dishes, pork, potatoes and Cajun and Caribbean spices.

“I got a lot of practice tasting,” Tim said with a laugh.

An acre, considered small to medium for lavender farm startups, had 1,300 plants nine inches in size planted. The June and July heat wave was near-perfect for growing, Mary said.

“They do well in heat and dry conditions,” Mary said, acknowledging the greater Greer summer-long heat wave. “We had good blooms in June and July, and we’re expecting a smaller harvest during the plant’s second bloom in September.”

Mary and Tim have had corporate jobs since knowing each other and explored creating their own business. “We talked about all different ideas we thought we would like to do, and we both loved the garden,” Mary said.

A visit to a lavender farm five years ago near Gettysburg, Pa., began to plant the seeds of a business venture that was sustainable and profitable. They lived in Maryland at the time.

Mary is from Boiling Springs and Tim from Charleston. “We wanted to be closer to family," Mary said.

“I think lavender is right for the Upstate,” Mary said. “It’s agriculture and there are plenty of bees and pollen on our plants. Agriculture fits this area, and it is something unique.”

The color purple appeared to sway Mary and Tim’s decision-making. “When we moved we didn’t realize how much lavender-themed art we had,” Tim said.

Lavender is mostly light or medium violet in color. Other hues are pinkish purple and violet to bluish indigo.

“Spacing and planting techniques are important,” Tim said. “We had to consider the higher humidity and higher amount of rainfall than a lot of lavender farms get in the regions they are planted.”

Tim said test plots were grown for more than 30 varieties.

On sale are a half dozen products Mary is selling at a boutique stand at Chocolate Toad in downtown. Lotion, soap, bath salts, lavender field mist, sachets and candles give off a fresh fragrance. Their plants were mature enough so lavender farm friends helped with the products.

Lavender products will be sold at the Greer Farmers Market, 4-7 p.m. for eight weeks from Sept. 10 – Oct. 29. Tate Jeweler’s will also offer a selection of the product, most likely because Wayne and Gail Tate, Mary’s parents, have sweat equity in the venture.

“Tim and I run the business, but we get a lot of help from our families and friends,” Mary said.

The Greer lavender farm is the only one Mary said she is aware of in the Upstate. They have 15 acres to expand their crop.

“Mary’s parents are helping more than expected,” Tim said. “It’s our responsibility and they have volunteered a lot of their time.” Mary said it’s not unusual to find them harvesting or tending to the field.

“There are lots more people familiar with lavender than we expected,” Mary said. “People don’t walk by anymore, they sniff the plants and have a lot of curiosity and interest in the plants.”

Mary and Tim have attended a lavender festival in Washington state. "The area in Washington state, where the most lavender is grown, is in a rain shadow and they have less rain than normal," Mary said. A visit to Texas illustrated showed how lavender responded to hot and dry conditions.

“The second season we will be doing some product development,” Tim said.

Mary is the national founder of the U.S. Lavender Growers Association (USLGA) and both are discussing how well a lavender festival would go over in Greer.

 

 

 

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