The light aroma of lavender oil wafts throughout the small laundry room in the basement, bunches of purple flowered stems hanging upside down from the ceiling. The lavender scent continues through the open space into a small work space on the north end of the basement, where a wall of ingredients hides a countertop covered in purple bricks of chamomile soap and black-and-white charcoal face bars.
The work spaces belong to Blake and Kimberly Lauffer of Creston, the couple who kickstarted Berly and Blake Lavender Company.
“Really, we were just looking for different business ideas,” Kimberly said. “I used a lot of lavender. Lavender is good if you have bronchial infections if you drink it as a tea.”
In 2013, the couple began sourcing products to begin the business. By 2014, they planted the perennial purple flower in a plot of land and grew it themselves.
“My parents farmed. My family has farmed for a number of years. My dad retired from the post office and he is farming now, just very small scale,” Blake said. “I’ve grown up farming. In high school and college I worked for a farmer. So, there’s background.”
Blake, who is from the area, and Kimberly, formerly of Montana, moved to Creston about 10 years ago. They have five children: Jeanette, 18, Hailey, 10, Gabe, 7, Ben, 6, and Easton, 1. Blake is a juvenile court officer for Adair, Adams, Ringgold and Union counties, and Kimberly is a wedding planner. However, Kimberly said she wanted to slow down with her full-time job.
“It was not really family-life conducive, so we were trying to find a way to scale back,” Kimberly said. “A friend of Blake’s suggested doing a lavender farm, and we were like, ‘Yeah, OK.’ So then he started looking into it.”
The demand was there, and after the 2014 planting year, the lavender business blossomed.
“We did a lot of internet research and then Kim talked to a lavender farmer in Washington,” Blake said. “In the beginning, it was trial and error because it takes a certain soil type and drainage, and the first year we struggled with that a little bit. But, since then, we got it figured out.”
The only issue currently is the Iowa winter, which can get deeply cold and wet and cause mass crop loss, which has happened to a lavender farm in the Loess Hills near Council Bluffs.
The couple have a plot of lavender that’s hand harvested several times a year.
The first harvest this year was in June, when they harvested both forms of lavender. One type will also have a second harvest in late August or early September.
“As we’re cutting, you use a hand sickle when you cut it, and then we bind it,” Kimberly said.
They sell bundles of fresh and dried lavender. Or, they strip buds off the stems, sift the plants into a more pure product and use the product several different ways. They grind the petals or infuse the plant into an oil for use in the various beauty, health and wellness products they sell.
Eventually, the couple plans to turn the lavender into essential oil to be used in tinctures and salves.
Until then, Blake and Kimberly make clay-based face bars which include ground oatmeal or charcoal, various soaps that include different items like chamomile and locally sourced goat’s milk, and lotions. They sell online and at the Creston Farmers Market weekly at McKinley Park in Creston.
“Our end goal is not just to have fun-scented things, which is nice,” Kimberly said, “but to have more of a medicinal property to it, to have more of a naturopathic way. So, herbal tinctures and salves, stuff we have used with our family for a long time.”