By: Catherine Martinez
After Phil Messer retired from a career in law enforcement, he and his wife Deb had an idea: Buy a farm and plant lavender with their four adult daughters, Nichole “Niki” Smith, Jessica Yourdon, Heidi Hoskins, and Courtney Dieker. In 2018, they founded Four Sisters Farm Lavender in Douglass, Kansas.
Why did they choose lavender? It requires less acreage to plant and harvest while offering endless product possibilities. But there was a more important reason than its business potential. This venture would allow their family to spend quality time cultivating a farm and business while giving their 18 grandchildren a rich growing-up experience.
“I would say life is chaos for all of us,” said Heidi. “But we love opportunities to get together. So our family does as many birthdays and holidays together as we can. [The farm] has added to those opportunities, giving us a chance to play in the dirt and spend time giggling, talking, sweating, and smelling the lavender. It is a magical opportunity to have those times together.”
Three of the four sisters currently homeschool their children, and the farm has become a hands-on classroom for both academic and life lessons. Deb and Phil’s grandchildren range in age from 4 to 21, and they’ve all spent time working on the farm. In addition, the family does all their farming by hand, so there’s plenty of work to go around.
The sisters fondly remember the year when all the children and sisters participated in the planting at the farm. “Every single person was involved. It was the sweetest,” said Jessica, adding that Deb and Phil paid all the children, no matter their age, for their efforts.
“At what job can I work alongside my 16-year-old and 15-year-old sons and talk about life, our hands are in the dirt, and we’re sweaty and tired but joyful. I mean, the opportunities that this has given me in this phase of life have been crazy. Most moms don’t get that kind of experience,” Heidi added.
“Most kids don’t get to have that experience either,” Courtney chimed in. “Now it’s technology and video games, but the farm provides a place of disconnection.”
Jessica and Heidi’s sons are in the same biology class at their homeschool co-op, and they asked their teacher if they could do their final presentation together about lavender. So they dressed in lavender-colored clothes and told their class about all they had learned about growing and harvesting lavender. Their grandmother even gave them some Four Sisters Farm Lavender products to share with the class.
Deb and Phil have facilitated a culture where their grandchildren can learn valuable life lessons like the value of hard work, responsibility, and the importance of family relationships. That’s why love and relationships are the foundation of the farm’s success. It’s a way of building generational wealth bigger than finances, rooted in faith and family.
“This is not a venture that I would have even dipped my toe in without all my sisters, without my parents,” said Heidi.
For women who want to pursue entrepreneurship or their life goals, Jessica has wisdom to share.
“Trust what the Lord’s put in you, and just use the gifts that He’s given you and be willing to go to the next level with whatever that is,” she said.