By MEGAN JOHNSON

msjohnson@somdnews.com

Soothing, comforting, relaxing: just a few words to describe lavender, the chief crop — and passion project — of Lovemore Lavender Farm and its owners, Maria and Robert Loveless.

The 14-acre property in Owings has been in the Loveless family for generations, operating first as a tobacco farm in the 1940s before transitioning to local fruits and vegetables. Operating as The Boys Are Back produce, the stand began attracting locals and gained them a core business for a decade.

Years later, Maria and Robert Loveless’ children, William and Veronica, took over produce operations and opened a roadside stand in 2001. The proceeds from Will and Veronica’s Produce helped fund their college educations and personal expenses, Maria said, including that classic teen goal: their own wheels.

Though today the fields are full of the fragrant herb, lavender wasn’t on the horizon for the family-run enterprise until six years ago. Veronica had a college assignment to “create a business,” Maria explained. After a trip to a lavender festival in Pennsylvania, they thought of the herb and began to research ways to incorporate it into the farm. “I fell in love with it,” Maria said.

Lovemore Lavender Farm was born. In the intervening years, the business has grown to include organic body products, soaps, lotions, essential oils, lip balms, bath bombs, honey and more — all produced with lavender from the Calvert site. Researched and created by Veronica, the body care and culinary items are all-natural, said Maria, who also touts lavender’s holistic benefits.

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, aromatherapy with lavender may help slow the activity of the nervous system, improve sleep quality, promote relaxation and lift the moods of those suffering from sleep disorders.

“Studies also suggest that massage with essential oils, particularly lavender, may result in improved sleep quality, more stable mood, better concentration and reduced anxiety,” according to the UMMC website.

As their children grew up and launched careers away from the farm, Maria and Robert assumed day-to-day duties — though William and Veronica are still vital to Lovemore Lavender’s creative development. The siblings bring their innovative ideas to the farm’s ever-changing product line-up, like an item in the works to appeal to a new (and male) demographic: mustache and beard oils.

“The business keeps us connected,” Maria said, mentioning the various ways the Loveless crew works to develop, implement and market their ideas together.

No one is resting on their laurels at Lovemore. Inside the Loveless home is a sunny, cheerful space that serves as the tea room. Available by reservation with Maria, the tea experience can accommodate groups large and small with many treats on Maria’s diverse menu (lavender chicken kabobs, anyone?).

“People don’t realize you can eat lavender,” Maria said. In their fully-licensed teaching kitchen, the former educator — Maria taught elementary and high school students for 30 years before retirement — is proud to offer more than your “typical” tea. In addition to enjoying popular items like lavender cookies, lavender tea, lemonade and lavender cheesecake, guests can enjoy demonstrations to learn about the preparation and cooking of the herb.

When visitors enter the tea room, they’re invited to take photos with an assortment of vintage hats and dress-up wear — popular with both the young and young-at-heart — after selecting the teas to sample during their stay.

Maria prepares the menu, presented on mismatched vintage china. There are kid-friendly offerings, of course — but the women who visit are often looking for tasty, filling and different items. “The ladies want good food,” Maria laughed, with simple tea sandwiches not always fitting the bill. Lovemore’s offerings can be more robust. “They don’t leave hungry,” she promised.

Little ones can enjoy a “princess tea” with the option to make a lavender-inspired craft — bath bombs, soap — to take home. Maria also welcomes groups like the Red Hat Society, church organizations and baby or bridal shower functions. She encourages guests to bring a “raffle item” with them to serve as a prize guests can win during a games-and-activities portion of the tea.

Beyond the sunny nook of the tea room, Lovemore Lavender Farm expands across the Loveless estate. The roadside farm stand opens in the spring to include homemade honey, local crabs, produce, meats, cheeses and more in its offerings.

“People today are looking for organic products,” Maria said, noting that everything offered at Lovemore is all-natural. “The lavender is never sprayed, never processed. Plant good seeds to get good plants to produce good oils. … That’s what they’re looking for. What we have is natural.”

Though the lavender fields (and cut-your-own options) won’t reach their peak until June and July, Lovemore hosts year-round events. A Mother’s Day tea will be held May 13 with games and prizes. The strawberry festival is scheduled for May 27 with strawberry ice cream and cake, along with children’s arts and crafts.

The Lavender and Herb Festival is on tap for June 24 — an event Maria plans will feature local crafters, musicians and an herbalist discussing the ways herbs can help folks “heal naturally,” she said. Eighty varieties of herbs have been planted on the property, and Maria says she is working with the Calvert Library to establish an herb society in the county. She is currently seeking volunteers to assist with the festival and looking to gauge interest in the herb society, too.

“I want to instruct people on how to use herbs, how to cook with herbs,” she said. Walking with her at Lovemore as she describes the crops, her background in education still resonates in retirement.

On an unseasonably warm February day, Maria strolls the Loveless property and pulls back the prickly stems of dormant lavender plants that will soon sprout with fragrant stalks. She scrolls through pictures on her cell phone of folks who shared photos from Calvert’s only lavender farm — a miniature version of the expansive French countryside that features so prominently in calendars and travel magazines.

“People get dressed up and just take the most beautiful pictures,” said Maria, holding out a photo of a young lady twirling a purple parasol from last year. She smiles at the memory of that summer day on this warm winter one, knowing another season of growth isn’t far behind.

Lovemore Lavender Farm is located at 1418 Georgianna Lane, Owings. The farm and store opened for the season on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays beginning April 1, and will begin operating daily in May. For more information on the farm, tea room, events and more, go to www.lovemorelavender.com, www.facebook.com/lovemorelavender1 or call Maria at 410-610-8940.

"Right, Meg?" columnist and special sections editor for Maryland Independent, The Enterprise, The Calvert Recorder and Chesapeake 360 in Southern Maryland. Find her on Twitter @rightmeg.

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