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A Lady and her Lavender [reclaiming a life of FOLK] article featured in

FOLK magazine


[spring 2012]

PHOTOGRAPHY & LAYOUT Jeremy Ryan Hatfield


Gavin O’Neill

A LADY and her


[reclaiming a life of FOLK]

Writing Gavin O’Neill Photography Jeremy Ryan Hatfield A quest to reconnect to your roots, is a journey that many of us can relate to. For Iris Underwood, this task has been taken quite literally. Birthed in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky and relocated to the Detroit area by the time she was five, Underwood felt the constant internal-tug of her farming roots in a bustling city. With fond memories of canning with Granny and her mother’s proper garden, Underwood created a space in her soul for growing plants. She soon realized that this fondness for gardening was a catalyst for her personal growth. She continued to nurture generous gardens throughout her life, although her primary purpose was raising her children and later, her successful writing career.

After family tragedy struck the Underwoods, Iris searched to heal herself not by numbing her pain, but nursing her broken spirit. This is where her love for horticulture took a tumble in a direction no one was anticipating. In past years, Iris has frequented a local nature center to learn the medicinal purposes of plants and trees. She became well versed in the old remedies and agents once known and used by her grandfather in the old mountains of Eastern Kentucky. Today she calls it her return to wildcrafting, a practice of understanding what naturally is around you and using these things to your own benefit. Underwood takes fondly to an author, Wendell Berry. His writing speaks of the art of husbandry, of good keeping of your land and animals in hopes of pouring in care and receiving natural wealth. With the combination of Berry’s echoing words, and the sensation of family history repeating itself, the creation of Iris’ farm was nothing short of a vision. Working in her garden, the ideas gelled until they became inseparable in her mind. Iris remembers this moment clearly, and recalled, as she looked down, there was a lavender bush. From that moment on, this lady carried out her quest. With a strong background in growing, Underwood understood what sort of a task she had in front of her. She quickly organized her plans, visited other lavender farms, and executed the task at hand. The more she followed the plan, the larger the frame of her vision grew, she explained. With some experts convinced that lavender would never grow in Michigan, Iris planted, knowing her farm was much more than a simple hobby for a mother with an empty nest.

The acres Iris and her husband selected were three and a third of five hundred rolling hills. The farmhouse was originally a sheep farm and the hills in Michigan served it well. Iris shared that the area is steeped in history. Sitting on the corner of Yule and Townsend, the road names reflect the namesake of the original owners. Yule Love It Lavender Farm sits a mile outside a vintage village that Iris insists is not a town, but a blinking light. Iris and her husband took it upon themselves to learn this new northern legacy while incorporating her southern influence. Iris said “watching farms disappear and fall apart impacted me in a deep way.� This solidified her vision and the lavender planting began.

At the beginning Iris said that all she saw on the farm was lavender. However, in good fashion, one project began another. Iris shared, “I’m a bit of a teacher and a bit of a rebel. I am a traditionalist, and at times cannot agree with how academia does things.� With this belief in her back pocket, and her guests asking more questions, Iris took action. According to Iris, questions led to tours, tours led to demonstrations, demonstrations led to perfect learning examples for her guests to use in their own lives. Iris urges her guests to be able to experience all facets of lavender. She wants them to touch the flower, hear the beauty of swarming bees around them, smell the soothing fragrance, and taste the herbal complexity of the plant. This has led Iris to the farm that she runs today. An all inclusive experience with a host of activities to attend. From tours of the entire farm, cooking demonstrations, teatime for guests under the pergola, and a gift shop that highlights the friendships, this special lady has made throughout her community.

The gift shop alone carries everything from lavender lemon pepper, to a generous menu of ice cream, cookies, and an assortment of beverages. However the gift shop isn’t only to fill stomachs. As an herbalist, Iris made a point to personalize herbal remedies to help the customers that visit her. She prides in the homemade products she sells and for those she buys, all come from an organic, free trade tea company. Not only does Iris sell products, she also displays local art and poetry of friends, family, and neighbors.

As for recommendations to visit, Iris insists summer time. The English Lavender begins to bloom in late June but the farm opens in mid May. The Mid June to the second week of July is harvest and absolutely the best and busiest time to come to the farm. This year, Iris plans to bring music to the farm with a twilight folk music show already planned on June 23rd. A writer, fan of Wendell Berry, wildcrafter, farmer, and good husbandman, shows us that our call to be folk can happen when you least expect it. So plant your garden in the back, and pot those flowers to put in your apartment window. Chase what you love most and surround your daily life with those experiences. Iris shared that some of her favorite moments of the day are those when she rounds off her three-mile walk alongside Stoney Creek and senses the history around her. As she walks past her gate, she feels embraced by her home. Iris has reconnected to her family traditions and is reinventing them to take perfect shape in her own life. Lavender has become much more than just a favorite flower for Iris Underwood, it’s an old friend. For more information on tour times, tasty treats, and the lady herself, visit: www.

FOLK: Lavender Article  

Featured article in FOLK Magazine | Spring 2012 Title: A Lady and her Lavender [reclaiming a life of FOLK] Photography & layout by Jeremy R...