We’re thrilled to report that our first 10 beehives are installed. We have a system in place to monitor the bees and expand the hives to accommodate the healthy, growing population. The bees have settled in well and we’ve watched them forage for lavender pollen to carry back to the hives. They’ve already started producing honey!
Our crew, which before now had limited or no apiary experience, are doing a great job learning the ropes and working with the bees. So far, we’ve had no “swarming” and there have been only a few bee stings (and no allergic reactions). And while we have had a few bear sightings, none of them has gotten past our electric fence to sample the honey.
Beekeeper Eric Grandon tells us that over the past 30 years, the protein content of pollen has declined dramatically and bees often struggle to get the nutrition they need to thrive. We are fortunate that our bees can find plenty of nutritious pollen in the surrounding lavender fields.
We expect that our bees will collect more pollen than they need – which should leave us with extra pollen to sell to other beekeepers and to health food stores. Along with the bee pollen, we’ll have raw lavender honey available for sale by sometime this fall. Please contact us to learn more about purchasing any of these products.
While our lavender plants have been fast asleep in the fields, we’ve been hard at work getting ready for the new season.
Thousands of new lavender plants that started out this winter as tiny cuttings in our greenhouse and high tunnel will be ready for planting next month. Propagation is going well and this initiative should help us meet our goal of planting 80,000 new plants this year.
Through the winter and early spring, our crews have weeded, built rock walls, and improved drainage. We’ve cleared additional acres and used a bulldozer to build the windrows (mounds) where we’ll starting planting the lavender in mid-May. Under the guidance of beekeeper Eric Grandon, we’re installing 10 beehives, which will be great for the bees and for our lavender.
Meanwhile, the plants that we planted last year are starting to wake up and they are looking good – even the plants that the deer nibbled when they got really hungry this winter (normally deer don’t like to eat lavender).
We are grateful for our workers who have been able to keep working this spring, and we are employing good social distancing, cleaning and disinfecting practices.
And while we are unsure of COVID-19’s impact on where we will be selling our essential oils and hydrosols this year, we do know that we will have products for sale—so stay tuned for more information on where and how you can buy them!
The R2WIB and ABCo each focus on to reducing or eliminating the barriers to economic development and barriers that separate skilled and unskilled workers.
The partnership began last summer when the R2WIB hosted job fairs in Logan and Nellis. ABCo staff interviewed people and soon hired them to work at its Ashford lavender operation. Several ABCo employees are now enrolled in the R2WIB’s Youth On-the-Job Training Program, which offers important job skills and life skills training (along with financial incentives to participate).
Being able to keep a job is just as important as getting one in the first place. Through the R2WIB, ABCo has leveraged additional resources to support employees who are facing financial and other challenges that can sometimes make it hard to keep and succeed in a job.
Financial support from the R2WIB enabled ABCo to keep employees on the payroll beyond the end of the growing season, which will help us get a bigger jump on the 2020 season.
According to ABCo President Jocelyn Sheppard, the engraved mantel clock will serve as a reminder of what the company accomplished in 2019—and an inspiration for hiring more Southern West Virginia workers in 2020.
Appalachian Botanical Company was recognized for its efforts to put Southern West Virginians back to work. The large majority of ABCo workers live in Boone County, with the rest coming from Fayette County and Raleigh County.
In accepting the award, ABCo President Jocelyn Sheppard offered thanks for the help and support received throughout this first year of operation. Early partners and collaborators include the Region II Workforce Investment Board, Synergy Health, PSIMED, Inc., and Penn Virginia Operating Co., LLC. Jocelyn also highlighted two individuals for their crucial contributions to the company: Manager Christina Jeffries and Partner/Investor Terry Rusin.
Read more about the other Power of Performance winners who are making a difference in Southern WV at WVhub.org
VIP days for Appalachian Botanical Company continued at the Ashford growing facility on Wednesday, October 2, 2019, when a group of people interested in learning more about commercial lavender visited the site. There have been a few different site visits within the past couple of months. For some visitors, it was their first time to the growing facility, while others have been one or more times.
Appalachian Botanical Company has discovered that these site visits make for great blog entries. What we are learning is that people who are interested in learning about lavender come from a diverse background and varying interests. One thing everyone had in common was an interest in lavender.
One featured repeat visitor is Terry Rusin. Rusin is the CEO of PSIMED, Inc, a company that works with mental health in corrections. Terry’s interest in lavender has propelled him to become even more involved with Appalachian Botanical Company. Since his first visit, Terry has become a partner with ABCo and also holds the title of Director of External Relations. Learn more at the PSIMED website.
Eric Abston and Cody Ramsey represented Synergy Health. Abston is the Executive Director. Ramsey has a very unique vision of creating a sober-living facility trailer park. The park could provide affordable living to people who are working towards living a sober lifestyle. Optimally, the park could be placed close to the lavender farm to provide residents with a healthy working atmosphere.
Ryan Thorn, Economic & Workforce Development Manager with the Office of U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, was in attendance. This was Ryan’s first trip out to the farm and we hope to see him again.
Other VIP’s at the October visit include:
Matt Griffith, Senior Mining Engineer, Energy Transfer Partners
Darynann Washington, Coordinator, Drug Prevention Coalition (Boone Co.)
Kristian Stevenson, Drug Prevention Coalition (Boone Co.)
Tina Ramirez, Director, Great Rivers Regional System for Addiction Care at Marshall Health
Ashley Shaw, Program Director, CORE (Creating Opportunities for Recovery Employment) at Marshall Health
Samantha Page, CORE (Creating Opportunities for Recovery Employment) at Marshall Health
ABCo needs your help planting and watering 40,000 new lavender plants coming to Ashford this fall. For each volunteer hour you put it, the B.A.R.N. Community Center will receive a cash donation. ABCo will provide work gloves, t-shirts, water, and snacks. All you need to do is sign up with B.A.R.N., wear long pants and sturdy shoes, and bring a hat!
Appalachian Botanical was lucky enough to have Boone County VIPs visit the Ashford growing site. Lawmakers, movers, and shakers endured the hot, summer sun to see the lavender farm in person. Farm supervisors and managers were present to answer any questions and provide them with more information about growing lavender on a reclaimed coal mining site.