Wondering how to go from a non-stop medical sales job to lavender farmer? Michelle Ducworth does. And her secret is in the soil — the same soil her family has worked for about 150 years.
When she walks her Twin Creeks Lavender Farm nestled on five of the 200 acres her family owns outside of Williamston, she says she feels connected to her late father, Dr. Lyman Ducworth Jr.. He was a longtime emergency room physician at AnMed Health who died in 2015.
“It’s just my place of peace,” she says of the sloping pastures where they once ran about 150 head of Beefmaster cattle.
Today, Ducworth grows lavender on that same land. Lots and lots of lavender. She says her faith propelled her into it.
“I got the call,” the Clemson University alum and former medical-surgical device sales professional says.
“For a long time, my job title was ‘laparoscopic open abdominal specialist rep’ … say that five times,” she quips. “But I could feel it in my gut — to put the farm back to work.”
Only you’re not supposed to be able to grow lavender in South Carolina. The soil is wrong for it and the conditions can be too wet, Ducworth says.
“We had to amend the soil — make the pH balance right for the lavender to grow,” she says. To do that, Ducworth got help from the Clemson University cooperative extension which tested the soil and told her how to adjust the pH using lime and bonemeal. A neighboring farmer brought in a deep disc harrow to cut long trenches through the red clay. Ducworth’s brother, Scott, helped throughout.
“We’d plow, then we’d treat, plow, treat,” she says. Over time, the soil adjusted. In May 2017, the first lavender went into the ground. Now, there are about 7,000 plants and through June 27, visitors can come out every Friday, Saturday and Sunday to pick their own bouquets from the seven varieties that grow on the farm.
“You’d be surprised how much lavender 7,000 plants will get you,” she jokes. But the farm is more than an agri-tourism destination. Ducworth and her team — including her mother who still lives in the family homestead a few yards away — distill and sell oils, soaps and sprays. Twin Creeks products are on shelves in places like the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery in Greenville and Tracie Starr Home in Anderson.
Chefs come in search of culinary lavender for their menus, bartenders use it in their cocktails and brewmasters infuse it into their beers.
“Lavender reduces anxiety. Helps people sleep. People spray it on their sheets,” Ducworth says. “It’s an anti-inflammatory. It helps with sunburns and stings. It’s a great, holistic healer.”
The only problem? She can’t smell it anymore. “I’ve gone nose-blind to the blooms. I can only smell it in concentrate,” she says, scanning the purple-budded plants from behind her lavender-tinted Ray-Bans.
But it’s worth it, leaving her comfort zone to work the family land, again.
“Growing lavender is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s the most rewarding. I love saying ‘I’m a farmer.’ I think Daddy would be very proud.”
IF YOU GO:
Twin Creeks Lavender Farm wraps up picking season on June 27 so there’s still time to pick your own.
Address: 4638 Midway Road, Williamston
Hours: Friday, Saturday, Sunday, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Buy a ticket online at Twin Creeks’ eventbrite page or in-person at the farm.