Lookout Lavender Farm
On nights when she couldn’t sleep, Alice Marrin would spend her early morning hours scouring the internet for her golden pond – a term her friend uses to describe a happy place to spend one’s retirement years. For some people, their golden pond is a beach or a city, but for Marrin, it was a 55-acre plot on the Lookout Mountain Plateau that would eventually become home to her business, Lookout Lavender Farm.
By Christina Cannon | Photos Courtesy of Lookout Lavender Farm
“To me, a golden pond is a landscape that feeds one’s soul,” explains Marrin. “I would search rural listings for any property that had a field, view, creek or pond, and some acreage. I wasn’t expecting to find all that, but this farm checked every box and more.”
Even though Marrin happened upon the perfect property, it came with a good portion of work. After purchasing the land in 2016, Marrin and her husband, Bill, set out on a mission to rehabilitate the property.
“The farmhouse and property were so neglected. Getting the house livable consumed our attention during the first year or so,” Marrin recalls. “The house had to be taken down to the studs, and all the electrical and plumbing had to be replaced. The house was infested with rats and snakes, and the fields were filled with hundreds of rotting logs, tires, sheet metal, and tons of debris.”
The Marrins, who lived in metro Atlanta at the time and still own a home there, would drive up nearly every weekend, stay in hotels, and labor from dusk until dawn to get their farm in working order. It wasn’t until after the house was in a livable condition that Marrin realized she needed to share the beauty of her property with others.
“Opening a business seemed like a viable way to accomplish this, but since we are in the area only part-time, we had to pick something that would allow us some flexibility,” says Marrin. Lavender farms in the region were doing well, and lavender is fairly resistant to drought, insects, and deer.
The duo attended the United States Lavender Growers Association conference in the winter of 2017 and began planting that spring. The following summer, the Marrins opened Lookout Lavender Farm and started offering u-pick lavender to the public during the summer months. For just a few dollars per bouquet, visitors are equipped with a basket, shears, and instructions on how and where to cut lavender.
“We have no history living in a rural setting, and with the exception of college, I’ve always lived in a big city. In fact, we get quite a few ‘Green Acres’ comments from our friends. We are loving it though. You would think Bill was born on a tractor,” Marrin laughs.
Lookout Lavender Farm, which is open seasonally and for special events, has experienced its fair share of organic growth, but Marrin notes that she is careful to run the business and not let the business run her. In addition to offering roughly a dozen varieties of lavender (most of which are grown for their scent properties), Lookout Lavender Farm also offers seasonal blueberry picking and Lavender 101 classes. In 2019, the Marrins opened their farm store, dubbed the Lav Shack, where visitors can purchase products such as essential oils and bath products.
“We have deliberately been taking our growth in stages,” explains Marrin. “Building the Lav Shack was key to managing our inventory of products. Before we opened the store, we would have to set up a tent during our open days and move the products in and out of our house.”
While Marrin notes that staying organized and traveling back and forth to Atlanta can sometimes be challenging, the endeavor has been well worth it.
“As much as I enjoy the creativity required to launch and run our business, I would have to say the most rewarding aspect has been the wonderful and interesting people we have met,” Marrin recalls.
Looking to the future, the Marrins hope to begin distilling their lavender on-site and would also like to create a more functional space for producing retail items and hosting classes. For now, they are content nurturing their golden pond and its sweet smell of success. CS