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Lavender conference to focus on a growing opportunity

Phil Castle, The Business Times: 

Western Colorado growers already know how to cultivate lavender. In fact, the fragrant and colorful herb is particularly well-suited to the arid climate and alkaline soils in the region.

Now, it’s a matter of helping growers market the many products that can be made with lavender, including essential oils and culinary ingredients.

A two-day conference planned for Grand Junction will do exactly that, said Kathy Kimbrough, president of the Lavender Association of Western Colorado. “We’re taking it to the next level. We’re excited.”

The association, a group of about 50 growers and entrepreneurs who cultivate lavender and sell lavender products, will host the Southwest Lavender Conference Sept. 28 and 29 at Two Rivers Convention Center. A guided bus tour of area lavender farms is set for Sept. 30.

More information about the conference is available online from the Web site located at www.coloradolavender.org. While the conference is a regional event, Kimbrough expects up to 100 people from across the country to attend.

A separate pre-conference workshop on growing lavender is planned. But the conference itself will focus on how to market lavender products. Speakers will discuss opportunities to use and market lavender in aromatherapy, cooking and cosmetics.

One goal of the association, Kimbrough said, is to help members and identify, develop and sustain markets for their lavender and lavender products.

Bundles of dried lavender blooms sell for $5 to $12 each. But lavender also can be processed to produce essential oils that sell for $50 in even small amounts, she said. Hydrosols, a byproduct of the steam distillation process used to make essential oils, also can sold outright or used in lotions, linen sprays and other products.

“There are so many ways to make money selling all these lavender products,” she said.

While lavender doesn’t yet rival fruit and wine as agricultural products in Western Colorado, Kimbrough said she has high hopes for what she considers a growing industry in every meaning of that word.

Lavender can be grown as an alternative crop or potentially even grown alongside other crops, such as the rows between grapevines. Moreover, there’s evidence that lavender grown at higher elevations tends to produce higher quality essential oils, she said. “It’s the perfect storm for lavender.”

 

Phil Castle is editor of the Grand Valley Business Times, a twice-monthly business journal published in Grand Junction. Castle brings to his duties nearly 30 years of experience in editorial management positions with Western Colorado newspapers. In addition, his free-lance work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the Washington Post. He holds a bachelor's degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University.
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