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Lavender festival to showcase growing enterprise

Phil Castle, The Business Times

A group of entrepreneurs involved in the growing lavender industry in Western Colorado once again will host a festival to showcase the versatile plant and it’s many uses.

“We want to share with the outside world what we’re doing,” said Sunny Howland, president of the Lavender Association of Western Colorado.

The Colorado Lavender Festival is set for July 12 to 14 in Palisade and will include farm tours, demonstrations, workshops and vendors selling a wide range of products.

More than 3,000 people attended  each of the festivals over the past two years. Given increased efforts to promote the festival through social media and other means, Howland expects attendance at the third annual festival to exceed that number.

Howland said lavender aptly has been described as one plant with endless possibilities. “It’s really the truth.”

Lavender can be used to make essential oils, lotions, soaps, spices for cooking, teas and even antiseptic cleaning solutions, she said. The rounded bushes with purple blooms also make for an attractive and fragrant addition to landscaping.

Since it’s ideally suited to the hot and dry growing conditions in Western Colorado, lavender holds promise as an increasingly important crop grown on its own or in combination with other crops, Howland said.

“It’s definitely a growing, and proving to be a profitable, alternative to other crops people are growing.”

In fact, Western Colorado more closely resembles the Mediterranean habitat to which lavender is indigenous than most areas of the United States.

At the same time, though, there’s evidence lavender grown at the higher elevations found in Western Colorado produces higher quality essential oils than plants grown at lower levels, Howland said.

Research is under way to precisely quantify the qualities of essential oils extracted from lavender harvested in Western Colorado. The results could help area growers and businesses in branding their products, she added.

Of the more than 40 members of the Lavender Association of Western Colorado, 30 grow lavender and together account for more than 40,000 plants, she said.

Members of the group are spread out geographically from Rifle to Naturita and are found in Delta, Garfield, Mesa and Montrose counties, she added.

Howland and her husband grow about 200 lavender plants on their property near Austin in Delta County.

While Howland said she’s still in what she considers the “hobbyist” stage, she hopes to expand the operation and sell lavender on a wholesale basis for use in essential oils.

Although lavender has been used for thousands of years in other parts of the world, the plant is enjoying a renaissance of sorts in the United States, in particular for its uses in fragrances and antiseptics, she said.

Howland said she expects the Colorado Lavender Festival to contribute to what’s a growing enterprise in every sense of that word.


What’s planned for the lavender festival

The Colorado Lavender Festival set for July 12 to 14 in Palisade will feature farm tours, artisan vendors, demonstrations and workshops.

The festival will begin July 12 with a guided bus tour of a total of five lavender farms in Western Colorado. The tour will include lunch as well as a wine and food reception at Grande River Vineyards in Palisade.

The festival will continue from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 13 at Palisade Memorial Park with demonstrations, food and live music as well as vendors selling a variety of lavender products.

Five workshops are scheduled to offer information about irrigating lavender, current research on lavender, the economics of starting and operating a small lavender farm, using essential oils and hydrosols for home care and growing lavender in healing gardens. While the festival is free, admission to the workshops is $30 for the morning workshops and $20 for the afternoon workshop for tickets purchased before July 6.

Admission at the festival will be $45 for the morning workshops and $30 for the afternoon workshops.

Sessions of a separate workshop on making wreaths are planned for both the morning and afternoon. Admission is $15. A free cooking demonstration is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.

The festival will conclude July 14 with free, self-guided tours of area lavender farms as well as orchards, wineries and retail shops. Maps will be available at the festival in the park.

For tickets and more information about the Colorado Lavender Festival, visit www.coloradolavenderfestival.com. For more information about the Lavender Association of Western Colorado, log on to the website at www.coloradolavender.org.

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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