Farm Spotlight Article
My husband and I have worked side by side for more than thirty years, building his plumbing and construction company into a thriving family business. After purchasing ten acres of land in 2018, we were faced with the age-old dilemma: finding a crop hardy enough to thrive in a place the Weather Channel once deemed the “Toughest Weather City” in America.
Severe temperatures and brutal dust storms notwithstanding, the region’s semi-arid climate and sandy loam soil made lavender the ideal crop choice and in 2020, Raider West Farms was born. Compared to the seven hundred and sixty acres of cotton and peanuts we’d farmed in the nineties, one acre of lavender seemed relatively straightforward, and after recruiting a few family members, we eagerly got to work.
Bless our naïve little hearts.
Despite extensive planning and research, our foray into the world of lavender farming has experienced more than its fair share of setbacks. Extreme drought conditions have plagued much of Texas over the past several years, making irrigation an exercise in trial and error. Fearful that the scorching summer heat and high winds would dry out the plants, we left the drip irrigation system on for twenty-four hours at a time, which led to a new problem.
We lost a lot of plants in the early days while trying to gauge how much was too much. Since then, we’ve partnered with Goanna Ag, an Australian AgTech company. Their in-field sensors have helped optimize our water-use-efficiency, taking the guesswork out of irrigation.
The drought also impacted which varietals we’re able to grow in zone 7b. After a bit of experimenting and more than a few tears, we’ve found the Phenomenal, Sensational, and Provence varieties not only grow, but thrive, under these harsh conditions. Currently, we have one thousand plants going strong.
When I’m not out playing in the lavender, I’m in my laboratory—I mean, kitchen—experimenting with the culinary uses for my favorite flowering herb. Through persistence and sheer stubbornness, I’ve managed to craft a line of lavender-infused cocktail and coffee syrups (lavender, lemon, vanilla, peach, and cranberry), lemonade/limeade mixes, cocktail salts and sugars, and a fudge sauce that is to die for on homemade vanilla ice cream—all using the lavender grown right here on our farm. Recently, we’ve expanded into botanical-infused syrups (rose, hibiscus, mint, and rosemary), which pair wonderfully with our any of our lavender syrups.
Our plans are to continue best practices in lavender and herb farming while growing our brand nationwide. Just this year, we’ve partnered with a local bartending service and several alcoholic beverage companies, helping our delicious syrups reach more people. I love entertaining and plan to continue hosting mixology-style workshops, showcasing fun and easy ways to make lavender cocktails and other non-boozy beverages using our products.
What began as a retirement plan, should we ever get the urge to slow down, has morphed into a full-blown family business, and we couldn’t be happier. Our oldest daughter manages our social media branding and presence, while our youngest daughter handles the SEO and web development for our farm’s site. Our son is the boots on the ground, working closely alongside us to ensure everything is running smoothly. Even our grandchildren have taken an active role during planting season. Raider West Farms started as a small idea, but we’re hopeful its legacy will last for generations to come.