The Schramels were looking for the perfect crop to grow in Taylorsville. It had to be something that preferred a warm climate, but could withstand a long, cold winter. Something drought resistant that could grow at mountain elevation. It had to be okay with sandy clay soil.
“Given all that, it seemed not only good a good match for our valley but was perfect for land here along Indian Creek,” said Ryan Schramel.
Two years ago, Ryan and his wife Emilie, along with his parents David and Merri Schramel, planted their first rows in the two acres they have dedicated to the farm endeavor. They started with Lavandula intermedia and two varieties of Lavandula angustifolia.
Winter rains and flooding tested the lavender growing experiment with some plants “completely ripped out of the field.” Some rows weren’t quite even anymore. The family replanted in the rain. Nearly all the plants survived, proving lavender resilience.
These days, there are around 2,000 plants in four varieties at the farm. They hope to expand as they start the venture they call Indian Valley Lavender in the spot where David Schramel’s Indian Valley Lumber stands.
David Schramel invested in a small commercial distillery on the premises, which can process 35 gallons of lavender plant at a time. The distillery separates the plant into lavender oil and hydrosol.
This year, they begin bottling both. They will be testing for chemical components in the plants, and also going for their organic certification.
According to Ryan Schramel, “The lavender market is relatively undeveloped in the United States. There are relatively few regulations or standards.” However, at the same time potential buyers — certainly of organics — have the same mindset as say, a honey consumer. People want organically grown, locally sourced product.
“Carrying a bottle of lavender around with you is like having your own personal first aid kid, perfume and pick me-up,” said Ashley Turner of Mind Body Green’s therapeutic oils website.
It can be used to clean cuts, treat skin problems, rashes, burns, insect bites, stings and bruises. It’s long been used for calming, nosebleeds and nausea. It is also used for allergies, cold sores, dandruff and chapped lips.
The hydrosol is often sprayed on pillows at night to ensure a good sleep and relaxation, or used in diffusers to create a calm atmosphere, or sprayed directly on the skin to soothe irritations. Some swear by its anti-aging properties for skin tightening and using it to brush pet fur.
Dried lavender is used in sachets and eye pillows for similar calming and soothing issues.
David Schramel indicated the business venture might be the last one for him as he and his wife ease toward retirement. He sees his current business, Plumas Medical Services, winding down over the next few years as medical services become more corporate with less room for individual small businesses across the country.
Indeed, the lavender drying and the lavender oils and hydrosol containers have already taken over his building at the Indian Valley Lumber yard.
It’s a calm, well-scented place to work. Even the two dogs seem mellow.