The sister duo who dreamed into reality the gorgeous lavender fields of The Lookout Farm personify the grit necessary for a successful up-and-coming farm. The remarkable level of gumption required to build a family farm from scratch, with little to no large-scale farming experience, is what makes Kelly Wisch, her husband Ryan, and Kimie Grimm, with her husband Aaron, truly unique.
It all began when Kelly had an epiphany while walking home from a community garden plot in downtown Columbia. Kelly’s daughter Rosie urged her to cross the street in order to get a closer look at a neighbor’s row of lavender. Struck by the overwhelming aroma of the fresh lavender and the winged life teaming around the purple flowers, Kelly went home abuzz with ideas. She mentioned the idea of starting their very own lavender farm to her husband Ryan, and he answered simply with, “Well, let’s look into it.” With her excitement bubbling over, she introduced the idea of a lavender farm to her sister Kimie and her husband Aaron. At this point the idea of the farm was no longer a dream, a plan began to form and a new home for their lavender farm was selected. The farm would become their new home as well.
Nestled in the rolling hills of the Rocheport countryside you can find the sister’s lavender field in all of its splendor. The farmland in Rocheport, French for Rocky-Port, was selected for all the right reasons. The rocky and hilly topography of the Missouri River Valley was essential to the health of their lavender field. According to Kelly, “Lavenders biggest enemy is an excess of water. When we first saw the hillsides, we felt like this farm was meant to be. It’s the perfect location for our purposes alone, as the topography would be too challenging for any other crop.” The 500 foot well, essential for watering the lavender via drip line irrigation, also awaited their arrival. The renovated farmhouse, was painstakingly transformed into the drying room for the freshly harvested lavender. It became the perfect atmosphere to dry and hang the families large harvests, which require hand-picking every 2-3 weeks in the spring and summer months. Adjacent to the properties original farmhouse and root cellar, established in 1929, both sisters, their husbands and Kelly’s two children Rosie, age 4, and Forrest, age 2, all live in a modern brick home that stood empty for 4 years before they purchased the property. Both Kelly and Kimie agree, “It’s like the property was waiting for us to take care of it.”
In just one year, the natural hillsides have been transformed into mounded groves of purple lavender that sit atop thrones of white gravel. The pathways of gravel provide proper drainage and the space necessary to harvest the lavender. Using only wheelbarrows and hand shovels, the sisters transformed the hillside into horizontal pathways that consist of 50% gravel, 25% topsoil, and 25% compost. The sisters laugh wholeheartedly when they reminisce about the creation of the farm, “We can’t believe we talked our friends and family into attending our ‘harvest parties’! It took a lot of work to move all that gravel by hand and we couldn’t have done it without them.” Utilizing organic practices, the sisters pull weeds by hand and have no need for pesticides as, “Lavender has no pests!” The sisters decided that planting a culinary variety of lavender on one side of the hillside, as well as a cosmetic variety of lavender on the other side, would provide a larger variety of products available to their customers. Their lavender products include soaps, candles, lip balm, lotion bars, kitchen spray, linen spray, lavender bundles and the culinary lavender used for their delicious white chocolate popcorn.
What currently excites the sisters the most about their budding farm is the upcoming tours for those interested in growing and harvesting lavender. “We’ve already begun inviting school children out to the farm for hour-and-a-half tours. We share our ‘How-To’s’ and ‘What We Do’ info and then Kimie helps lead them in a craft project. Kimie is known on the farm as the ‘craft queen’ and enjoys the role.” Both sisters chuckle, Kimie adds, “The amazing part of our creation is the creativity and experimentation we can still implement.” Both sisters graduated from the University of Missouri with degrees in Human Development and Family Sciences, so their passion to share their farm with school children and anyone interested in starting their own farm comes naturally. Kelly’s own children love working on the farm, “They are very helpful and hardworking.” Eventually, the sisters envision interactive tours wherein guests can harvest their own lavender. They plan to have large scale tours available to the public next summer and self-harvesting by the end of this year.
Although May of 2019 was their first introduction to selling at the market, the support of their new customers has meant the world to Kelly and Kimie.
"Market customers are so encouraging. Customers have been intrigued with the growing process and everyone is very supportive. People who love lavender REALLY love it. We have some hardcore lavender fans at our market. We’re excited to educate our customers about the variations of lavender and using it in many different foods.”
When you see the sister duo with their husbands this Saturday, make sure to ask them about their up-and-coming farm for yourself!