Dawn Pritchard is the proprietor of Silver Linings Lavender in Westminster. Pritchard had a natural talent for art as she grew up. She did painting and sculpting. Although she did painting, Pritchard never had a specific style until later. She calls it "experimental."
When she attended Williamstown High School in New Jersey, near Philadelphia, Pritchard took metal shop and created metal sculptures. She was just learning how to work with metal, so she made abstract sculptures.
Pritchard was told that she had to go to college to keep her health insurance. When she graduated from high school in 1997, she decided to attend Camden County Community College in New Jersey and majored in art. She took color theory, sculpture, art history, painting and drawing.
She enjoyed being creative.
"Since I have ADD, attention deficit disorder, art gave me something to hyper-focus on and I could lose myself in it," she said.
Pritchard did a lot of exploring when she left college. She worked on a WWOOF farm, Willing Workers On Organic Farms, in Australia (wwoofusa.org). According to their website, "Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, USA (WWOOF-USA) is part of a worldwide effort to link visitors with organic farmers, promote an educational exchange, and build a global community conscious of ecological farming practices."
Workers spend about a half a day on the farm working and learning about organic farming principles. There are more than 2,400 farms in America alone. No money is exchanged. Any organic farm, community project or garden can participate.
Pritchard worked on different farms in exchange for a place to stay and food.
"It is an inexpensive way to travel," she commented.
She remembers planting a comfrey plant at one farm. It was the first time Pritchard had planted anything.
"I got bitten by the bug," she explained. "The first thing I did when got home was to order a rose plant from a catalog."
When it bloomed she became obsessed with plants.
Pritchard started a vegetable garden and decided to go back to school for horticulture. She attended Temple University and graduated with honors. She worked in various nurseries and eventually led landscape crews to do estate garden maintenance. "I did a lot of high end container plantings for wealthy residences. That was a lot of fun," she mused.
"For me, plants became my artistic medium. I specialize in perennials. It allows me to make living paintings that change constantly," Pritchard said.
When Pritchard visited family in England, she and her husband found a lavender farm. "As soon as we drove in, I put my hand on my husband's shoulder and said, 'We have to have one.'"
Pritchard had been planting lavender in everyone else's yard but did not have a large yard of her own. When her family moved to Maryland, they could not afford a farm. In 2013, she applied for the Carroll Biz Challenge and won the $5,000 prize. The Biz Challenge is the brainchild of Jason Stambaugh.
According to carrollbiz2017.com: "The Biz Challenge is an annual tradition in Carroll County, which offers local entrepreneurs the exciting opportunity to pitch their new business ideas to make great connections, get loads of publicity, and this year, compete for a (cash prize)."
The prize was enough for Pritchard to start making the lavender-based products. It allowed her to build a business base, so she could work toward buying her dream farm.
Pritchard began to make lavender soap, candles and lotions that she sells online at silverlingingslavender.com. All of Pritchard's products are handmade with pure essential lavender oils.
She also attended craft shows such as the one held at Liberty High School in Eldersburg annually. Although, since she had a small child at that time, Pritchard could not go out every weekend to sell her products at shows.
Pritchard has not yet bought a farm, but she still gardens on her 3 acres in Sykesville, where she grows some of her lavender. Pritchard gets 5 yards of soil for her yard every year as a birthday present. It is a mix of sand, compost and top soil.
In 2017, Pritchard opened Silver Linings Lavender on 235 East Main Street in Westminster, beside Birdie's Cafe (birdiescoffee.com).
"The best part is that there is a lot of land behind my store — 58 lavender plants will be planted in the spring. There will also be a yoga garden," Pritchard said.
"I love the connection to nature and I love that I can make something beautiful with it," she explained. "Lavender, in particular, I can use to help people. It has been scientifically proven to help people sleep better and to have less anxiety."