Ozarks Life: Lavender Falls Farm

The Bersteds are wrapping up a fifth year of welcoming guests to their farm.
Published: Jun. 24, 2022 at 7:33 AM CDT
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STONE COUNTY, Mo. (KY3) - Just a stone’s throw into Stone County sits a field of lavender.

“There was no logic to this at all,” Lavender Falls Farm owner Thor Bersted said. “In fact, the University of Missouri Extension said it will never grow here. Everyone laughed at me.”

Lavender Falls Farm is a quiet, friendly spot for a dinner in late spring. It’s only open for seven-and-a-half weeks and reservations are hard to come by.

“Thousands of people come to our home every year,” Thor’s wife and Lavender Falls Farm owner Catherine Bersted said, “and (they) enjoy it and value it as much as we do. And they’re kind and they’re gracious. And it’s the most humbling thing.”

Over the centuries, lavender has been known to ease anxiety and pain. Back in June of 2013, it’s exactly what Thor and Catherine needed.

“You’ll never work again is a statement that you don’t take lightly,” Thor said.

Nine years ago, Thor was a Springfield Police Officer. He enjoyed his job. But in 2013 it was taken from him after a training accident.

“I don’t feel all of my arm and I don’t feel these three fingers,” Thor said pointing to his right hand. “And it sometimes makes life difficult, but definitely couldn’t be a cop anymore.”

“We were going to nurture whatever dream he had because of where he was,” Catherine said.

“It was a pharmaceutically induced vision in the ICU of the hospital,” Thor remembers. “I was on every pain medication known to man. And my wife left my phone with me. And I started Googling ‘cash crop.’ And I knew I couldn’t grow marijuana; I was still legally a police officer. So I just went down through the list and I said, lavender, I think my wife likes that. And that’s where it started. And I ordered 768 plants.”

“He deserved dignity and pride and respect,” Catherine said. “And if this was something, even in an altered state of mind that he wanted, he was doing that because he was stripped of that. And so we were going to humor him for the six weeks until the lavender died. Somehow it survived.”

But what to do with 768 lavender plants? The couple bottled lavender oil and made sugar scrub, linen spray, and bath salts. They loaded them up, bundled up their young kids, and went to the farmers market at the mall.

“They sold out,” Catherine said in shock. “I remember sitting there holding a baby and having a three or four-year-old running around and looking at my husband and thinking, ‘how did this happen?’”

“We came home after a Saturday and my wife said, ‘you know, I, I think maybe your stupid idea has legs,’” Thor said.

Eventually, Lavender Falls Farm went from the mall parking lot to a kiosk and a store inside. And that’s when Catherine’s dream started blooming.

“I remember my wife saying to people as they were checking out, ‘oh, come out to the farm next summer, we’re going to have a restaurant,’” Thor said.

“The first time that Thor heard it,” Catherine said, “he goes, ‘wait, what are you telling people?’ And I said, ‘we’re going to open the farm to the public for a short time and let them see everything.’ And he said, ‘you can’t do that.’ And I go, ‘yes, but I also feel like I shouldn’t order 768 lavender plants...’ And so there was a given take. And it worked out.”

The Bersteds welcome 120 to 140 folks a night to their farm for lavender-infused dishes and drinks. It’s a wonderful lesson of give-and-take in a relationship and strength coming from a slim, purple flower.

“We love having everyone and we look back at every season fondly,” Thor said.

“The circumstances that happen no matter how dark and sad they seem, there’s a reason they happen that’s just beyond you,” Catherine said. “You just go with it and you push forward and the right people come in at the right time. And everything somehow always falls into place.”

Lavender Falls Farm is completely booked for its final two nights of the season, Friday, June 24, and Saturday, June 25.

But you can get some of their food, drinks, and products at the Aviary Cafe at Republic and Glenstone in Springfield. Lavender Falls became a partner with that restaurant two years ago.

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