LEIGHTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Tucked between corn fields in the Caledonia area is a lavender farm with a mission to serve.
Lavender Life Company, located at 464 Stanton Farms Dr. near 108th Street in Leighton Township, was started around 2018, a year after Vickie and Victor Bennett planted their first lavender plants. Now, they offer 120 lavender products, like lavender-infused honey, lavender chocolates and lavender rich syrup, an item Victor Bennett said they can’t make fast enough.
The couple said when people stop by the farm, they often say they had no idea there was a lavender farm in West Michigan. Its five lavender varieties were specifically picked as they could survive in the Michigan climate.
This year’s weather has been so good for lavender that the couple is still harvesting the flowers. The farm, usually only open in the spring and summer, has added a fall and winter season and will be open through December.
“Normally the harvest period is the middle of June until around the first week of July and then it will shoot up flowers throughout the summer, but nothing as glorious as the harvest time this year,” Vickie Bennett explained. “However, due to the fact that we had a lot of dry periods as well as a lot of sunshine this year and lot of heat, the lavender loved that.”
She said harvesting flowers in October is “very, very rare.”
Along with an expanded season and hours, the Lavender Life Company farm is also offering fall products like pumpkin spice lattes, lavender lattes and a pumpkin cheesecake.
A FARM WITH A MISSION
The couple met when Vickie Bennett’s dad, a pastor, came to Victor Bennett’s church, where his dad was a deacon. The “serial entrepreneurs” have had several businesses throughout the years and they worked in the spa business for almost four decades.
After selling that off, they slowly built up their lavender farm.
“We wanted to introduce lavender products to not just high-end spagoers but to everyday people and started our online store,” Victor Bennett explained.
Around the same time they were starting Lavender Life Company, a 2-year-old dealing with trauma came into their life through foster care, the couple said.
They were making their first stuffed bunnies, which have a pouch with lavender and Michigan cherry stones that can be warmed up. They gave one of the first bunnies to the toddler, Vickie Bennett said.
“His mom called us the next day and said, ‘This was a game changer for him.’ He slept for the first time, he was a lot less fussy,” she said. “… (We) decided that if it helped him so much, perhaps it could help other children in foster care.”
The couple named it the Xander Bunny after the 2-year-old. They now also offer Xander Cats and Xander Dogs.
For every Xander Bunny they sell, the couple donates one to a child in foster care. Since 2018, they’ve donated close to 90,000 Xander Friends. It’s a “moving target,” Vickie Bennett said, adding that there are “447,000 kids that are in foster care that could use a little comfort and to understand and realize that they are loved and they’re not alone.”
The couple is getting a shipment of around 3,000 ready to send to Iowa, one of the states where they donate to every child in foster care, Victor Bennett said.
When people stop by the farm, the couple said they love being able to share about their Xander mission.
“Many times when we share our mission, people will start weeping and … be very, very moved,” Victor Bennett said. “We say, ‘Hey, you now are an ambassador for us. Go spread the word.’ Because that awareness in their own communities to be a part of helping in the crisis on foster care crisis really is what we’re all about.”
He added that foster care is “a faceless crisis,” and their business is able to put people in the kids’ shoes.
While the couple has always had a love for children, they didn’t originally set out to start Lavender Life Company to support kids in foster care.
“It literally landed in our lap with a 2-year-old boy that came and just needed a lot of love and attention, and we just happened to have a tool that helped to comfort him right away,” Vickie Bennett said. “… Lavender is so calming and it has an anti-anxiety quality. And these children are going through such major trauma and transition that anything that is soft and cuddly and warm and filled with lavender just helps to calm them down instantly.”