More female farmers growing their own businesses in Kentucky

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SOMERSET, Ky. (WKYT)- In Kentucky, farming is a tradition shared among many families.

Typically when we think about farming in the state we think crops, cattle and now the resurgence of hemp.

New numbers released earlier this year show a new trend in the farming community.

More and more women are turning to the agriculture world to start their own businesses, and doing so in a very un-conventional approach.

For one southern Kentucky mother and daughter duo it was about finding their own niche while honoring their farming heritage.

In many areas of Pulaski Co. farming is a way of life.

Fields of corn and soybeans often line the roads, but now nestled in among those crops, is a farm growing something very different.

“Mom likes to say this is a hobby that really got out of control,” said Allison Horseman, co-owner at The Lavender Farm at Woodstock.

The farm is rich in history and it’s been in Mary May’s family a long time and its where her daughter Allison now lives with her own family.

“We loved the land and we wanted to honor the land,” said Mary May, co-owner at the Lavender Farm at Woodstock.

The mother and daughter team started The Lavender Farm at Woodstock after being inspired by a cookbook.

In 2013 the first plants went in the ground, trouble is, lavender is not a recommended crop for Kentucky and it can be hard to grow.

“We didn’t do as much research as we should have, but we learned from that. So we started out small with just 50 plants,” said May.

Over the last six years there have certainly been growing pains, but this farm now boasts 700 plants.

“We just finished having a phenomenal year, the best year we’ve ever had, we have a bumper crop of lavender,” said May.

What Allison and Mary are doing is part of a growing trend in Kentucky.

The 2017 Census of Agriculture found that Kentucky had more female farmers in 2017 than 2012, and in 2017 the number of female farmers was up nearly 37%.

“We have over 40,000 KY female farm operators, that counts for nearly 1/4 of all the farms in Kentucky are run by women,” said Ryan Quarles, Ky. Ag Commissioner.

It’s something Commissioner Quarles has suspected, but the census numbers now back it up.

He also says women are farming with a much different and more tech savvy approach.

“What we are seeing is females and millennials in particular are choosing niche markets. They are doing things a little bit differently than their parents did and they are better at marketing as well,” said Commissioner Quarles.

The Lavender Farm at Woodstock has found its niche and the women hear hope to help grow more female farmers like themselves.

“Then you’ve got the intermedia variety which is the other type we grow here,” said Allison Horseman.

This lavender is proving very successful, drying plants hanging in the barn are destined for a fragrant and profitable future.

“Our bug spray is our number one selling product,” said Horseman.

It’s one of a number of Kentucky proud products Horseman and May make from bath and beauty to household and culinary items.

If you ask Horseman what’s really helped the most, the answer is applying for and getting grants.

“We have a lot of doors that have been opened to us through grants that we would not have been able to expand our offerings, expand our products, and expand our reach. We are now in stores all throughout the U.S.” said Horseman.

Along these rows it was about starting small and dreaming big…a mother and daughter watching their venture into the farming world bloom and hoping others can grow their own success.

“We think there is a place for women certainly, there is a place for women in,” said May.

Horseman and May are working with the University of Kentucky, Clemson and Virginia Tech on research specific to problems that plague lavender.

The women have also opened the farm up at different times during the year making The Lavender Farm at Woodstock an agri-destination for others to enjoy.

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