“We grow lavender on reclaimed coal mine land.” This statement is one of the best conversation starters ever: no one ever comes back with “that’s the most boring, obvious thing I’ve ever heard.” Instead, it’s “Really? That’s so interesting!” Most people we talk to have an appreciation for lavender, and they like the idea of putting the land to a different use now that mining has become a much smaller part of the local economy.
But while it’s easy to picture beautiful purple fields, it can be harder to imagine all of this happening on a former strip mine. “Isn’t that a place where nothing grows?” they ask, picturing a desolate lunar landscape. “Not in our case,” we reply. The picture above shows a reclaimed portion of the Boone #2 Mine in Ashford when we first arrived in early 2019. The areas we intended to plant were green with grass and scrub trees, with “goonies” (large boulders) lingering evidence of the work that had been done to restore the land.
“In fact,” we say, “it’s really quite beautiful up there,” especially in the light- and mist-filled early summer morning before the temperatures hit triple digits and before we start to love lavender and its unyielding demands (harvest after the dew dries and before it gets terribly hot, gather the stems just so, take care not to cut too close to the plant’s woody base, take care to keep the stems from getting moldy) maybe just a little less.
As the day progresses, the Ashford Hill microclimate can change rapidly and dramatically. Brilliant sun gives way to gathering clouds that usher in steady, gentle rain or huge downpours (with seemingly little in between). While the rain halts our harvesting, it doesn’t stop other work that must be done: weeding, building walls, updating plant counts, planning for the next day.
The work day follows the light. At the end of a very long day, when people are tiring and there are still tasks that need to be completed before it gets dark, it’s not the worst thing in the world to be up on the hill to watch the sunset. No, not at all.
We’d like to thank ABCo team member Aaron Morgan for sharing photos of a place where he loves to work.
From this beautiful place come beautiful products such as our lavender essential oil, lavender mist, and organic lavender cream. Your purchase directly supports our mission to put the land and people of Southern West Virginia back to work.
MEET THE AUTHOR / JOCELYN SHEPPARD Jocelyn Sheppard is the Founder and President of Appalachian Botanical Co. Before she started ABCo, Jocelyn was a consultant with high-tech startups and nonprofits. She enjoys reading, cooking, jigsaw puzzles, and travel, especially in France where the food, wine and lavender are amazing. Her favorite product: Organic Lavender Body Cream