In 1989, an herb farm was only a glint in Don Haynie and
Tom Hamlin’s eyes. Now, they can barely keep up with the
RAPHINE, VIRGINIA – Buffalo Springs Herb Farm
isn’t hard to find. Locate the rolling hills of rural Virginia,
near the little town of Raphine, and nearly anyone you ask can tell
you how to get there. And no matter which route you take, this
lovely place is like no other farm you’ve seen.
Don Haynie and Tom Hamlin bought the 220-acre farmstead in 1989
with the intention of creating an herb farm.
“Location, location, location is what business advisers tell
you,” Hamlin says. “But if you don’t have location, then your
mantra becomes, ‘Destination, de-stination, destination.'” Day
trips to herb farms have become popular with gardeners over the
years. With time and hard work, the Buffalo Springs owners have
turned an old farmstead into one of the most popular of these
destinations on the East Coast.
MAKING A DESTINATION
When Hamlin and Haynie purchased the property, it included a
1790 brick farmhouse, an enormous 1890 barn and, at the bottom of
the hill, a springhouse that at one time had provided water to the
Next door to the farm was Wade’s Mill, a water-powered gristmill
that didn’t work but made a lovely scenic backdrop. It now has been
restored and is a popular tourist stop, as well.
Soon after purchasing the property, the owners hired an expert
in renovating and preserving historic buildings. The house, with
one section built in 1790 and a later addition in 1841, received
extensive renovation. The barn was next in line for restoration. It
was cleaned, the roof and siding repaired, floors sanded and
scoured clean, and an area created for workshops. Hamlin and Haynie
turned another substantial section into a cheery, charming gift
shop, adding stairs to the loft and drying lines there for hanging
herbs and everlastings as they were harvested from the gardens.
Buffalo Springs Herb Farm opened for business in 1991, offering
workshops on such topics as wreath making, holiday swags, drying
herbs, planning and planting an herb garden, soap making and
cooking with herbs. As the workshops gained popularity with locals
from the surrounding towns, more people began coming to the gift
shop even when workshops weren’t scheduled.
Meanwhile, fabulous new gardens were planned and planted. Haynie
and Hamlin designed their gardens to be inspirational spaces that
foster contemplation or demonstrate some educational idea. For
example, the heirloom vegetable garden features a wide array of
antique varieties, such as Howard’s German tomato, grown in the
valley during the farm’s heyday. Purple hyacinth beans, a variety
Thomas Jefferson brought to Virginia around 1805, grace a nearby
The medieval garden is a favorite spot. It includes “Abbey
Ruins,” built to look like the ruins of an old chapel, with low,
stone walls and a couple of beams to suggest what the roof once
looked like. The floor is simple, flat stones with creeping thymes
growing between them. Three old, wooden benches invite visitors to
sit a spell. Ivy and herbs grow in the cracks of the low, stone
walls, and pieces of statuary, looking like ancient ruins, peek out
here and there in the shrubbery. A vine covers the arch entryway
and a visitor approaching can hear monks chanting from hidden
speakers in the vegetation. Garden visitors often are seen sitting
quietly in this meditation spot.
An impressive rose arbor borders the assortment of gardens,
providing shade for strolling. With 12 gardens in all, there’s
something to see at every turn. A thyme garden, with dozens of
varieties growing amidst the boulders, leads to the vintage log
cabin housing a museum of garden history. Here is a substantial
collection of 18th-century farm and gardening tools, arranged on
the walls as if they were simply put away from a day’s work. When
all the walking around gets to be too much, old willow bentwood
chairs on the front stoop provide a perch from which to view the
garden or eat a snack.
The collection also includes a fragrance garden, celestial and
Mediterranean gardens, a lavender bank, kitchen garden, English
garden and even a rock garden. There’s also a commercial garden of
everlastings, which provides dried flowers for workshops and the
dried arrangements sold in the gift shop.
Hamlin and Haynie began offering luncheons in the main dining
room soon after the business opened, bringing in a chef to prepare
the meals and hiring local women to work and serve the meals. Soon
the luncheons were so popular that the owners decided to bring in
another building from about the same historical period to give them
A log cabin, circa 1890, was moved and rebuilt on the spot
between the arbor gardens and the house. The upstairs serves as
guest quarters for occasional visitors or workshop presenters. An
addition was built downstairs so the cabin dining room now seats 40
people. Luncheons are offered by reservation throughout the season
and the house is almost always full.