Hamways guide Orchard View Farm through revival

AFP Correspondent

Mansfield Township, Warren County (Oct. 15, 2016) — When Jim Hamway bought the old Woronowicz farmstead in 1989, it was beyond run down.
The family raised nine children in a house with a large main room and a sleeping loft and no plumbing or electricity until the 1950s.
“It was a shack,” Jim said charitably of the house built around a log cabin from the 1700s.
The house had been padlocked for eight years and he had to live with his parents in nearby Port Murray until he got it fit for habitation.
Now, Orchard View Farm is a picture-perfect small farm, surrounded by Tree-Licious Orchards.
Jim and Monica Hamway brought a unique vision to the farm. At first they thought about raising animals, but realized how steep the learning curve would be.
Monica thought about growing flowers, possibly something unusual.
After a conversation with her aunts, she remembered playing with tiny purple soaps at her grandmother’s house in Argentina when she was a little girl. It turns out they were lavender soaps. So lavender became the crop she wanted.
As it happened the United States Lavender Association convention was that January in San Antonio.
“Everything lined up,” Monica said about the trip to Texas. “I met lavender growers, made contacts.”
The lavender plants occupy a field that was so overgrown Hamway didn’t even see the seven abandoned cars until he started cutting the brush.
Jim and Monica planted eight of the 37 varieties of lavender in spacious rows.
They plan to add varieties, most of which come from France, Spain and Eastern Europe. Most mature lavender plants measure three feet tall by three feet wide. They need extensive pruning and hand weeding, before the buds are ready for processing, making for a labor-intensive outdoor job, far different from Monica’s former occupation at a travel association. Jim still keeps his full-time job with a contractor.
It takes three years for a lavender plant to mature, but the Hamways have found uses for their lavender and also work with other lavender growers for value added products.  Monica is hoping for a good, cold, snowy winter. Snow protects the lavender plants and keeps them healthy.
Much to their surprise, the best seller is lavender syrup. At first they were skeptical but their customers have found many uses for it. 
“Not on pancakes,” Jim cautioned, but it can be used in many other things, including a nice martini. 
The key to cooking with lavender is “less is more.” “It can be overpowering,” Monica said, but lends a hint of flavor to iced tea, lemonade, vanilla ice cream and, they highly recommend, a vanilla-lavender crème brulee. A local microbrewery uses lavender in a craft beer.
The lavender-scented and cheerfully lavender-toned shop is full of products, arranged artistically around the large, open room on wide plank floors that Jim rescued from the attic of the old Port Murray General Store. 
Products are arranged by food products, teas, aromatherapy, essential oils,  bath and body care and lavender-themed items, such as tea sets with lavender patterns and placemats, napkins, potholders, aprons and other sewed products made by a local seamstress.
Orchard View is also becoming a destination, offering cut-your-own lavender with an area for picnics.
Monica raises, and spoils, 16 chickens and sells eggs. A local beekeeper has two hives on the farm and is planning to add more.
They don’t sell lavender plants, not wanting to compete with nearby Well-Sweep Herb Farm.
The Hamways said they have plans for the future, including possibly expanding the house and maybe opening a bed and breakfast.
But for now, they are happily tweaking the model they have, including turning a former rose garden into a lavender-and-rose garden.