By Sara Ann Hutto Grant ’17
Photography by Craig Mahaffey ’98

With faith and tenacity, Michelle Ducworth ’00 put her family farm back to work

The Crest of the Hill. It’s a special square of land on Michelle Ducworth’s fourth-generation, 200-acre family farm. It’s the place where her father would walk after a stressful day as a trauma physician. Where he would admire the acreage in the evening light, his children following behind.

“He would go down there and hit his reset button if you will,” Ducworth remembers. “It was his time with God and country.”

The family farm looks a little different than it did then. Today, it’s the site of Twin Creeks Lavender Farm, a sea of purple that began as Ducworth’s brainchild and has become her full-blown career.

Three years ago, on the morning of Twin Creeks Lavender’s first U-Pick — an event where the community is invited to harvest their own lavender straight from the field — Ducworth drove her SUV through the Crest of the Hill, going out of her way for a special moment.

“At the top of that terrace, you can see all of the pasture — many, many, many acres,” she says. “The first day that I opened the field, I went through there just to say hey to Dad and ask him to be with us that weekend.

“It was a very emotional day, that day, because I was praying all my hard work would come to fruition.”

Ducworth wouldn’t be disappointed.

Lavender?

In 2015, Ducworth’s father, Lyman Ducworth Jr. ’70, passed away from cancer, and the farm’s cattle work was picked up by a neighboring farmer friend.

At the time, Ducworth was working as a Greenville, South Carolina-based surgical device rep, selling in western North Carolina and Upstate South Carolina. Soon after her dad’s passing, Ducworth realized the farm’s old barn would need cleaning out. The prodigal daughter returned home to Williamston, South Carolina.

“You know that old saying: ‘You can take the girl out of the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the girl.’ It’s very true,” she says.

Ducworth grew up in the farm’s homestead, which was built in 1892, and she speaks of fond childhood memories shared with her brother, Scott:

“My dad was very busy in the ER with a pretty grueling schedule, and mom was running me and my brother all over town, being the mom with the most,” she laughs. “From horseback riding to baseball to dance. And, of course, we had our farm chores and our schoolwork to take care of.”

When Ducworth returned home to clean out the barn, she felt the familiar peace of her family’s land, and she says in that moment, she felt called to become a fourth-generation farmer. An idea began to take root.

“The farm has always been a place of peace,” she says. “I want it to be everybody else’s place of peace as well, to just come out and enjoy God’s country.”

Ducworth decided to take part of her family’s farm — 10 acres, to be exact — and make it her own. After a year of brainstorming and researching, she nixed ideas of rosemary and basil and settled instead on lavender, an herb not indigenous to the red clay of the Upstate.

“Lavender?” her brother asked, perplexed when she pitched the purple plant. Yes, lavender.

Prep Work

To get her 10 acres ready for planting, Ducworth first reached out to Clemson Extension, and they helped her test the soil and guided her in adjusting its pH.

Then, she invited Victor Gonzales of Victor’s Lavender, one of the nation’s top growers from Sequim, Washington, for consultation. Together, they came up with a game plan: amend the soil with bone meal (phosphorous) and pelletized lime; plow the soil and let it rest; mound the rows for proper drainage; order and plant 7,500 plants by hand; and, finally, pinch the initial sprouts for maximum growth in the first year.

Ducworth and her team, including her mother and brother, planted seven unique lavender varieties in the field: Gros Bleu, Grosso, Provence, Violet Intrigue, Melissa, Royal Velvet and Super Blue.

“It was an incredible amount of work,” Ducworth says. “I planted about 500 plants myself, and my hands were so swollen, I could hardly move them.”

But the results speak for themselves. Ducworth has enjoyed over three years of successful lavender yield, and she’s developed close to a hundred bath, body and home products made from the lavender essential oils they distill on the farm.

“I use every single [product] you see [in our store],” says Ducworth. “I tell everybody — I make the things I want. Y’all just pay for me to pamper myself.” She laughs, “It’s really a selfish operation.”

A couple of her favorites are the Shea Yes Sugar Scrub, an exfoliant made with organic shea butter, organic sweet almond oil, fractionated coconut oil, vitamin E, and lavender essential oil, and the Heels Down Foot Moisturizer — the name inspired from Ducworth’s days as a Saddlebred saddle seat equestrian.

“Heels Down pairs exceptionally well with a glass of pinot noir at the end of the day,” she says with a smile.

Sharing the Farm

After years of working the lavender and cultivating an agritourism stop in Anderson County, Ducworth has been able to pursue Twin Creeks full time. She takes pride in extending her family’s legacy and honoring her late father in the process.

In May 2022, Southern Living featured Twin Creeks Lavender Farm in a two-page spread, a story Ducworth has framed on her wall. She counts the feature as a blessing and says some days it’s still surreal to see her face in the lifestyle magazine.

“I look up and see it and am like, ‘That really happened.’ You know?”

But Ducworth doesn’t stop with sharing her story — she shares her lavender farm with fellow small businesses.

Because every single Twin Creeks Lavender product is handmade, hand poured and hand labeled, Ducworth collaborates with other local farms and businesses to create specialized products that they wouldn’t have the bandwidth to produce on their own. Vdovichenko Bee Farm, for example, has brought their bees out to the field to create a lavender honey that Ducworth says is smooth and sweet.

“Lavender is very high in sugar content, so that’s why the bees love it,” she explains.

But more than anything, Ducworth finds joy in seeing the community out in the fields of purple, picking lavender for their baked goods, for their homes — for fun. It’s why she created the annual U-Pick event, which invites folks to the field to pick their own lavender. U-Pick runs from the end of May to the Fourth of July, and a Pick Pass purchase allows patrons to harvest anytime during that season to enjoy all the lavender varieties Twin Creeks has to offer.

Ducworth loves to see local chefs picking their culinary lavender in the early season, groups of friends packing picnic lunches for the field, and families traveling for miles just to participate in U-Pick and take some lavender home with them.

“There’s a lot to be said for providing a place where everyone can come out and get a breath of fresh lavender,” Ducworth says. “My mom and brother are really proud.

“I think my dad would be, too.”

Sara Ann Hutto Grant ’17 is the associate editor of Clemson World magazine.

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