From beautiful new wineries to anniversary celebrations and unique events, Western Colorado is buzzing with news and activities. Discover the 10 activities that only Grand Junction — and Colorado's Wine Country! Follow our events calendar throughout the year for details.
Grand Junction is Colorado’s Wine Country: Just a few hours west of Denver, Grand Junction provides visitors a truly unique Colorado escape within the Grand Valley. With access to 22 wineries, 3,000 square miles of state and federally protected public lands, outstanding outdoor activities including biking, hiking and fishing, some of the best golf in the state, unique shopping and dining experiences, arts and culture, and so much more.
Here are just 10 ways to explore Grand Junction:
1. . Celebrate at the Colorado National Monument. The National Park Service successfully celebrated its Centennial in 2016. Start by exploring the Colorado National Monument, touted by Outside Magazine and USA Today as one of the top 10 best places for solitude in the US.
Idea: Bike the Tour of the Moon route, starting over the 23 mile Rim Rock Drive in the Colorado National Monument.
2. New! Raise a glass at the newly opened Red Fox Cellars. This new family run winery in Palisade, CO (just 20 minutes from downtown Grand Junction) joins the 21 other wineries open year-round and waiting to serve you. Now that’s a lot of wine!
Idea: book your bachelor or bachelorette parties.
3. Get Serious About Mountain Biking. The Grand Valley has some of the best mountain biking in the world, yes world! For the serious bikers, head to Fruita and the 18 Road Trailhead.
Idea: Mountain biking does not have to be hard-core, check out the newly expanded Three Sisters Park. *Careful* -the adjacent Lunch Loops trail system is for advanced riders only. The kiddos would also like the easiest and most family-friendly trails: Rustler's Loop (at Kokopelli), Kessel Run (at 18 Road), or Prime Cut (Bookcliffs).
4. FOUR! Actually, there are five beautifully designed public golf courses. Highlights include elevated tees with a red rock backdrop of the Colorado National Monument.
Idea: Don’t miss the #3 public golf course in Colorado as ranked by golf digest, The Golf Club at Redlands Mesa.
5. Follow Your Nose to the Lavender Fest, featured every July. There’s a lot more than grapes and peaches growing here. Visitors can learn more about the unique purple plant that’s used in everything from perfume to homeopathy to culinary dishes during the annual Lavender Festival in Palisade.
Idea: have you tried lavender wine? Or peach wine? Or strawberry rhubarb wine?
6. 50 years and going strong at the Museum of the West. Fulfill your inner cowboy or cowgirl with a trip to a museum dedicated to the Western lifestyle in downtown Grand Junction.
Idea: have you ever imagined what life was like for a pioneer? “Ride” the stagecoach to see for yourself. Or really go back in time with a dino dig at their sister museum, Dinosaur Journey, in Fruita.
7. That’s One Big Wine Festival! Actually, it’s the largest in the state of Colorado. Third weekend of September is the vino filled Colorado Mountain Winefest.
Idea: don’t wear white pants; the grape stomp is a memory worth jumping in for!
8. Raft the Mighty Colorado. Or float tranquilly downstream with cocktails at the end. Our guides can deliver all levels of water-loving adventure, from Westwater Canyon to Ruby-Horsethief and beyond.
Idea: try Stand Up Paddleboarding to surf the river, Colorado style.
9. Shop Downtown Grand Junction. You won’t find big box chain stores here. You will find galleries, boutique shopping, unique toy stores, charming candy stores, bookshops, cute kids’ clothing, bike shops, outdoor gear, specialty retailers and weekly farmers' markets.
Idea: watch them make the sweet tooth cure, almond toffee, at Enstrom Candies.
10. Hike or ski the Grand Mesa. The world’s largest flat top mountain is your year-round paradise. Oh, and 300 lakes = a lot of fishing.
Idea: Not all hikes are created equal; seek the popular and challenging Crag Crest Trail. Remember your camera.
By: Kami Collins with the Delta County Independent
It's hard to say what catches the attention of a visitor first: the collective hum of hundreds of buzzing bees nestled in the stalks of 600 blooming lavender plants; or, the deep, vivid purple-hued plants themselves, gorgeously stretched out the length of an orchard, with cherry and peach trees along either side of the neat rows, and the West Elk Mountains as a backdrop. Equally as tantalizing to the senses is the earthy fragrance: the sunshine and soil and fresh, clean air, all of which enhances the warm, rich scent of fresh lavender. Standing in the middle of Ed and Laurie Conner's lavender field on a warm summer day can leave one's senses positively reeling.
Last weekend, there were quite a few visitors in sensory bliss, some with their own cuttings of lavender, some with the taste of lavender-infused lemonade or lavender sugar cookies still on their tongues. The experience was all part of the farm tour offered by the Conners as part of the Colorado Lavender Festival, organized by the Lavender Association of Western Colorado. This was the second year the Conners were part of the self-guided farm tours; a few years ago, their farm on Rogers Mesa was one of the featured farms during a bus tour.
Lavender has been used for centuries, widely used in ancient times for its medicinal uses and found everywhere from the Canary Islands, Europe, eastern Africa, the Mediterranean and parts of Asia and India. In more recent times, lavender has steadily gained in popularity and awareness in the U.S., with more and more farms popping up around the country, driven in part by the demand for the plant in essential oil form, bath and beauty products, culinary uses, landscaping additions and other uses.
Ed and Laurie have been raising lavender since 2011. In 1999, Ed purchased the 25-acre farm on Rogers Mesa from an uncle, and began farming apples, peaches, cherries, apricots and plums. He and Laurie met in 2008, when, at the Montrose Farmer's Market, Ed threw Laurie an apple, and she caught it. Neither of them knew at the time that it was a custom in ancient Greece that if a gentleman threw an apple at a lady, it was considered a marriage proposal. If the lady caught the apple, it was an acceptance. "I caught it, and now we have a five-year-old and an orchard," Laurie said.
While still dating they attended a horticulture tour together in Palisade, where they visited Sage Creations, which sold lavender starts. Ed proclaimed them a "neat" plant and suggested they should plant a couple.
"I think he was still trying to impress me then, so I said sure, we'll put some in," Laurie said. "So we put in two rows, and now we have 600 plants. That's the romantic side of farming!"
The bad part is, two years into the operation, while Laurie was making some of her oils, they discovered that Ed was allergic to the plant, and was especially sensitive to the super-concentrated oils. So now he works the orchard and she works the lavendar.
They started with 100 plants that first year, and the next year added more plants and three more varieties. They now grow seven varieties of their micro-crop artisan lavender. They grow a variety called Grosso, from which Laurie produces her own essential oil and hydrosol (aromatic waters that are created during steam distillation of essential oils). They also grow Melissa, which has a white flower, and Folgate, both of which are culinary lavender. The Purple Bouquet variety is a dark purple that pops with color. It is used most often in crafting. They also grow French Fields, Malleitte and Edelwiess (another white flower), which are used more for bath and body products.
The scientific name of lavender is Lavandula Angustifolia, and is also known as true lavender or English lavender. This is the lavender that has the rich, earthy scent. Lavandula x Intermedia is considered to have a sweeter scent. It is a hybrid plant developed in 1900 by crossing true lavender with spike lavender or aspic. The result is a larger plant with blue or gray flowers. It has similar qualities to that of true lavender but since it has a sharper smell, it is especially useful for treating muscular aches and pains, as well as for circulatory and respiratory problems.
At the farm tour last weekend, Laurie spent hours in her lavender patch educating visitors from all over the state (and a few out-of-staters who trekked here for the lavender festival) about the farming, harvesting and production of lavender. The plant is pretty hardy and a tough plant, she explained. She does nothing special for her plants as far as fancy soil additives or seasonal tricks to ensure the plant blooms. When she was asked what kind of soil she used for her plants, she replied, very matter-of-factly, "Just what's here. Colorado clay. And it likes it; it likes the dry soil." She flood irrigates just once every two weeks. And while the plant is susceptible to deer when the plant is very young -- less than six inches tall -- while the plants are growing, the deer, and other critters, leave them alone. She doesn't even need to cover the plants in the winter. The geography and climate of Delta County is perfect for this crop. "We grow lavender really well here," she said. Despite that, there are just a handful of commercial lavender operations in Delta County, with the majority of the Western Slope's production coming from Palisade and Grand Junction.
The growing season is very short. The plants first bloomed in early May, and by this time next week, Laurie's field will be completely harvested. That's actually a longer season than normal; she left the plants in bloom for the farm tours. Normally she would have harvested all the plants in early July. The timing of the harvest is important because plants that are in flower too long result in a less intense essential oil.
From her harvest, Laurie creates a tempting array of products. She makes the oil and the hydrosol, sprays, lip butters, sachets and bath soak bags, and foot care products.
She also crafts a line of culinary products such as a lavender tea and a lavender hot chocolate mix. She sells food-grade lavender buds for use in recipes, as well as a blended lavender sugar, which can also be used in recipes, as in the delicate, buttery sugar cookies Laurie makes. Using the fruit from her orchards, she makes lavender-infused jams, and also crafts a lavender-infused honey. One of the tastiest products she makes is a line of handmade chocolates featuring her lavender. Most of her food items are low-sugar, allowing the taste of the lavender to shine.
Laurie and Ed sell their products at their farm store, at the Pack Shack in Hotchkiss and at the Gunnison, Basalt and Montrose farmer's markets. You can also purchase online at www.ConnerOrchards.com.
See the original article here.
By Kami Collins with the Delta County Independent
The lavender is in full bloom at the aptly-named Sunny Acres Lavender Farm in Orchard City. Named after one of its owners, Sunny Howland, the summer sunshine also beautifully drenches the orchards and fields, making this little farm "sunny" in a lot of ways.
Sunny and her husband Bob have grown lavender since 2010. At that time, they were already growing cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots and almonds. They were looking for something else to plant that wasn't more trees. They attended a meeting of the Lavender Association of Western Colorado and learned that our growing conditions are similar to conditions in the Mediterranean, where lavender originated from centuries ago.
Lavender is very drought tolerant and doesn't succumb as easily to frost as other plants. Deer and rodents also don't find it tasty, so they leave it alone. Bob and Sunny quickly saw the benefits of lavender. They planted seven varieties, four of which are English lavender. "I said, once it's planted I'll figure out what to do with it," Sunny joked. As she was researching what to do with her lavender, she quickly learned that they hadn't planted enough of each variety to distill, which is how lavender essential oil is made.
But she has found plenty of uses for her small quantity. "I think people think they like lavender, but they don't really know what lavender can do for you," Sunny explained. She has become so knowledgeable about the plant and its uses that she recently invited a group of friends (members of the Altrusa Club of Delta, of which she is a member) over for a program she called "All About Lavender!"
She greeted her guests with several lavender beverages: an Earl Grey lavender sun tea, lavender lemonade and a lavender and peach sangria. For dinner, she served caprese salad with lavender balsamic vinegar; a pasta salad with pine nuts and sun-dried tomatoes, drizzled with a tomato and lavender vinaigrette; lavender and peach pulled pork sliders; and a watermelon salad with mint, feta cheese, walnuts and, of course, lavender. For dessert, she served lavender meltaway cookies and lavender apricot blondies.
And, as lavender is also used as a relaxant, her guests were pretty mellow as Sunny started her program and explained some of the history and uses of this fragrant power-hitter.
Historically, the plant was used by Egyptians, Phoenicians and Arabians as a perfume and to preserve the bodies of the dead. The Greeks used the buds for pretty much all ailments: insomnia, body aches, insect bites, and even insanity. When Romans got hold of the plant, lavender became a highly sought-after commodity. Some reports say the flower cost 100 denarii per pound, or about one full month's salary for a farm worker, or the same cost as 50 haircuts from the local barber.
The French used the flower for cooking; Renaissance Europeans for disinfectants and deodorants. The word itself derives from the Latin lavare, or "to wash," and the flowers remain to this day a popular additive in bath and beauty products. Cleopatra is said to have used lavender oil to seduce both Marc Antony and Julius Caesar.
Back at the Sunny Acres Lavender Farm, Sunny dabbles in a little of this and a little of that, from cooking to crafting to skin care.
She no longer uses a commercially-made lotion for her skin, and instead uses her own infused oils. The technique is fairly simple to make your own oil, and Sunny is happy to share her recipe. Start with food-grade grapeseed oil, found at the local grocery store. Almond, avocado or apricot oils can also be used, but stay away from corn or nut oils, which can go rancid in time. Place a fresh lavender bunch in a clean glass container, and fully cover and immerse the flowers in the oil -- leaving any of the plant uncovered may lead to mold. Let the oil sit for about two weeks and voila! You can use that oil to make other beauty products as well, like sugar scrubs.
"I believe in using pure unadulterated products," Sunny said. "I've been a consummate greenie all my life, before it was popular to be green. I love that this is just lavender and a pure grade of oil."
In cooking, Sunny uses the buds to flavor lamb, fish and chicken. A small quantity of the flowers adds a fragrant addition to ice cream. Lavender tea, while being refreshing and delicious, can also help with headaches and nausea.
She dries the flowers to use in flower arranging and sachets. She makes a lavender stuffed rabbit and Christmas ornament angels from a lavender bunch.
Her home and lavender fields were featured during the 2011 Colorado Lavender Festival; she hosted a farm tour at her home that year. She has also served on the board directors for that organization.
"Lavender enhances my life," she said. "It makes me happy. I love it. I have it in every room in my house."
Her next goal is to purchase a still in order to use her lavender to make essential oils, a more potent oil than the infused oil she currently uses. "A girl can dream," she laughed.
And though Sunny's lavender patch yields just enough for her personal use and she does not produce lavender products for the public, here is a super yummy recipe she shares to help get you started on your own lavender-infused journey.
By: Amy Hamilton, Daily Sentinel Grand Junction
Intoxicating smells of lavender first greet visitors to Palisade’s third annual festival that celebrates the fragrant and multipurpose herb.
What comes next is even more stunning.
It seems lavender is good for nearly everything.
Lavender vendors on Saturday spiced up the day, offering a number of products from infused cooking oils, treats, soaps, sachets, aromatherapy products and even bug sprays at Palisade’s Memorial Park.
Today, 10 Palisade lavender farms and wineries are open for self-guided tours focusing on all things lavender, and some lavender vendors will be on site during today’s Palisade farmers market.
John Mueller, who with his wife, Carol, own The Lavender Lady and Friends Boutique, 213 Main St., could barely keep pace with demand as dozens of thirsty visitors sipped lavender-infused water at the couple’s festival booth.
“I just filled this up 15 minutes ago,” he said, gesturing to a water cooler filled with cut oranges, plenty of ice and their featured lavender margarita mix.
Mueller said his wife got hooked on lavender after the two attended a lavender festival in Sequim, Wash., in 2006. They soon started selling all things lavender in Palisade, helping to launch a budding niche industry in town. By 2009, a number of local farms started producing and selling lavender, and soon the Lavender Association of Western Colorado was formed.
“It’s just been nuts ever since,” Mueller said.
Suzy Coleman of Grand Junction started cooking with the herb after her daughter gave her a loaf of tasty lemon lavender bread for a Mother’s Day present.
“The first time I tasted something made with lavender I thought I should be smelling it, not tasting it,” she said while creating a small wreath with lavender. “Then it kind of grew on me.”
Jane Winnaman of Olathe also was making a wreath at the festival, returning to the event for her second year. She first became enamored with the light purple herb when she burned her hand on a wood stove. After she applied lavender, the pain subsided and her skin didn’t blister.
Often, she’ll spritz some lavender spray on a pillow to fall asleep. Winnaman’s friend keeps a vial of lavender oil on her at all times and uses it to help deter bugs and also soothe bug bites.
“It picks you up and also brings you down,” she said. “That’s why it’s a lavender festival and not a thyme festival.”
For more information on lavender-based events today and in the future, visit the website for the Lavender Association of Western Colorado, http://www.coloradolavender.org.
Phil Castle, The Business Times
Rosemary Litz grows nearly 50 lavender plants as part of the meticulous landscaping surrounding her Grand Junction home. The rounded bushes with purple blooms add color and fragrance to the serene setting.
But for Litz, lavender constitutes a growing enterprise in another sense. She harvests blooms from the plants to fill sachets, neck pillows and other products she crafts from luxurious fabrics and sells through a company named, aptly enough, All About Lavender.
Business, Litz said, has been good. “It’s been doing very well.”
Litz is just one example of the growing number of entrepreneurs involved in the lavender industry on the Western Slope.
“It’s perfect for the small entrepreneur and the small home business,” said Kathy Kimbrough, president of the Lavender Association of Western Colorado.
But lavender also can become big business. Out of the 50 members of the association, 20 run farms, including one operation with more than 6,000 plants, Kimbrough said.
A versatile herb, lavender can be used in a range of products: essential oils, lotions, soaps, even spices for cooking. Moreover, lavender farms and festivals constitute tourism attractions.
The associated hosted its first Colorado Lavender Festival in Palisade last year, an event that brought in about 3,500 people. Kimbrough expects attendance at the second annual festival, scheduled for July 6 to 8, to top 4,000. The festival will include vendors showcasing lavender products, demonstrations, workshops and tours of local growing operations.
A two-day conference scheduled for September in Grand Junction will focus on developing products that add value to lavender. The association also expects to receive a specialty crop grant to help fund research into quantifying the qualities of essential oils extracted from lavender grown in Western Colorado, Kimbrough said.
While lavender doesn’t yet rival fruit and wine as an agricultural industry in the region, she believes all the conditions are in place for that prospect. “It’s the perfect storm for lavender.”
A master gardener who runs a garden design and consulting company called Garden Scentsations, Kimbrough long has incorporated lavender into her layouts. “It’s an amazing landscaping plant, and I use it in all my designs.”
In addition to its color and fragrance, lavender retains its foliage year around. Equally important, lavender is ideally suited to the growing conditions in Western Colorado with its arid climate and alkaline soils, Kimbrough said.
The same characteristics that make lavender a good plant for Western Slope landscapes also make it a good choice for commercial production, she said. 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 lavender grown at higher elevations tends to produce higher quality essential oils than plants grown at lower elevations, she said.
Membership in the association has grown to 50 and includes everyone from crafters to commercial growers, Kimbrough said. Membership has expanded geographically as well and includes Delta, Garfield, Mesa and Montrose counties. “It’s a regional thing.”
The ultimate success of the lavender industry will depend on the ongoing efforts of those who grow and use the plant. But everything points to a growth industry, Kimbrough said. “I am so passionate about the prospects.”
So is Litz, who markets her lavender-filled products as a luxurious remedy for stress for her customers. “I want them to have a spa-type experience.”
The Business Times
While the agricultural industry doesn’t usually garner the same level of attention as the energy sector in Western Colorado, there can be no doubt agricultural enterprises are growing ventures in every sense.
The Colorado wine industry continues to grow — a trend reinforced by the record 56 wineries that will participate in the upcoming Colorado Mountain Winefest in Palisade.
Over the years, the wine industry has grown from just a handful of wineries to more than 100 such operations in the state. Wineries and grape growers not only produce an increasing quantity of wines, but also an increasing diversity and quality of wines.
By one estimate, the wine industry contributes nearly $42 million to the state economy a year — but that figure is five years old and was likely conservative to begin with.
Now, there’s a newcomer to the agriculture sector in a growing lavender industry in Western Colorado that some involved in the business envision as ultimately becoming every bit as important to the region as wine and peaches.
In less than two years, a total of 16,000 lavender plants have gone into the ground in Delta, Mesa and Montrose counties. The fragrant blooms from the herbs go into a variety of products: soaps, lotions, teas and even spices for cooking.
These developments are welcome for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being farmers and ranchers produce the products we eat — as well as drink and, in the case of lavender, smell.
From an economic standpoint, though, the agriculture industry constitutes big business in Mesa County. By one estimate, the annual economic impact of the ag sector reaches nearly $138 million.
Consider, too, the increasingly important connection between agriculture and tourism. No vineyards and wineries, no Colorado Wine Country or Colorado Mountain Wine Festival. That’s not to mention a lavender festival scheduled for next year that organizers hope will bring up to 3,000 people to the Grand Valley.
There’s still another benefit to agriculture that’s less quantifiable, and that’s the scenic views tourists and residents alike enjoy of vineyards, orchards and pastures. Add to that the growing number of fragrant purple lavender bushes that offer a treat for the eyes and the nose. Such is the stuff that makes visiting and living in the Grand Valley so enjoyable.
While agricultural industries face constant challenges from the weather and market conditions, the long-term outlook remains bright.
Those who work and live in the Grand Valley can be thankful for agricultural enterprises that contribute to the economy and to the quality of life here.
See the original article here.
Rosemary Litz steps into her meticulously landscaped backyard and bends over a rounded bush. Like a barber wielding scissors, she trims off a handful of long stalks with purple blooms. The fragrance of lavender fills the air.
For a growing number of entrepreneurs like Litz, it’s the smell of money.
Litz uses the lavender she harvests from plants around her Grand Junction home and the home of her daughter to fill a variety of hand-crafted products: among them sachets, eye and neck pillows and purse liners. The scent is not only pleasing, but soothing.
“To me, it’s the most wonderful aroma in the world,” said Litz, founder of a business named, aptly enough, All About Lavender.
Others involved in the fledgling, but quickly growing, lavender industry in Western Colorado harvest the versatile herb to use in other products: soaps, lotions, teas and even spices for cooking.
Kathy Kimbrough, president of the Lavender Association of Western Colorado, envisions a day in the not-too-distant future when lavender becomes another important agricultural component of the regional economy. “I can see it as being every bit as big as peaches and wine.”
In the 16 months since the association was formed, nearly 40 members have joined, a diverse group that includes everyone from crafters to commercial growers. More impressive still, a total of 16,000 lavender plants have gone into the ground in Delta, Mesa and Montrose counties. Kimbrough expects that number to keep rising.
In addition, the association has scheduled its first lavender festival for next year, an event the group expects to bring up to 3,000 people to the Grand Valley.
“It’s turning into an amazing opportunity for people to earn income,” Kimbrough said.
A master gardener who runs a garden design and coaching business called Garden Scentsations, Kimbrough long has included lavender in her landscape layouts because of the beauty and fragrance of the plants. Lavender retains its foliage year-round and blooms twice a year.
Equally important, Kimbrough said, lavender is ideally suited to the growing conditions in Western Colorado with its hot and dry climate and alkaline soils.
Litz said she first planted lavender about four years ago as part of the landscaping around her home.
Litz said she encountered lavender during a vacation to Oregon and fell in love with its fragrance.
About a year ago, Litz decided to capitalize on that fragrance in starting her business.
Litz has put in a total of nearly 80 lavender plants around her home and the home of her daughter. Litz harvests bunches of blooms and hangs them upside down in her closet to dry. She then rolls the dried stalks over a screen to separate the blooms from unwanted bits of plant and dust.
The dried and cleaned blooms go into the products Litz creates herself at her sewing machine: sachets for closets and drawers, liners for pillows and purses and eye pillows and neck wraps that relieve tension.
Lavender has been used for millennia for medicinal purposes — as an antiseptic, a skin treatment and tension reliever. Based on her personal experiences, Litz said the fragrance relieves her headaches and enhances her mood. “It makes me feel better.”
Litz sells her products through a number of venues, including in-home parties she calls lavender sachet salons. She plans to sell her products at an upcoming women’s conference at the Keystone resort in Colorado as well as at Christmas craft fairs.
For now, Litz is the owner, operator and sole employee of All About Lavender. But she hopes to ultimately expand her home-based business by creating more products, hiring a seamstress to help her with production and launching a Web site to offer online sales.
Kimbrough said All Abound Lavender is among a growing number of businesses using lavender in products. Other members of the association craft soaps and lotions, distill lavender into essential oils and grow lavender as ingredients in cooking. A store in Palisade carries locally made Lavender products and a shop in downtown Grand Junction sells Italian ice cream flavored with lavender.
A lavender festival planned for next year will showcase the industry as well as the many uses of lavender, Kimbrough said.
A two-day festival is scheduled for July 16 and 17 in the Grand Valley. The first day will include booths selling lavender-related products and foods. Demonstrations will cover such topics as growing lavender, making crafts with lavender and cooking with lavender. The second day will offer tours of area farms that grow lavender.
Kimbrough said such an event could draw up to 3,000 people from a five-state area.
An annual lavender festival in Sequim, Wash., draws 40,000 people, Kimbrough said. A festival in the Grand Valley eventually could become just as popular, she said, because of other attractions in the region, including the scenery, outdoor recreational opportunities and wineries.
The ultimate success of the lavender industry in Western Colorado will depend on the ongoing efforts of growers and the businesses that use the herb, Kimbrough said. Moreover, research is needed to determine what varieties of lavender perform best for a particular use.
But given the nearly ideal growing conditions in the region and fast start for the industry, Kimbrough said she’s optimistic.
“It is very exciting.”
Litz said she’s also excited about the future of the lavender industry in Western Colorado as well as her own venture. “To me, it’s quite a wonderful herb. I’m so glad I found it.”
By William Woody of The Daily Sentinel Grand Junction
Lavender, for many people throughout the West, is simply a decorative bush used in landscape designs.
For Palisade peach farmer Ron Rish, it’s another source of income.
At his Cloud Terrace Farm on Friday, hundreds of pounds of lavender grown and harvested by Rish were placed into a large still owned by Olathe farmers Roxi and Bob Lane, who brought it to Palisade on a flatbed trailer.
The distillation process is relatively simple. Heat the purple bloom for two hours in the cooking container and listen as steam loaded with aromatic oils is transformed back into water and drained into jars.
The resulting essential oils are sold throughout the Grand Valley, which is a prime location for growing the plant.
Lavender thrives in hot dry climates such as in western Colorado, and demand for the plant’s healing properties and cooking applications have turned many farmers such as Rish into commercial growers. He has been growing lavender for two years.
“I did some research and found that lavender grows well in areas where vineyards are,” Rish said.
He then threw up his hands and proclaimed, “This area seems like a good fit to me.”
When the lavender is harvested, it means business for the Lanes, who travel from grower to grower, from Palisade to the North Fork Valley, distilling lavender. They say it’s become a booming industry.
Kathy Kimbrough, president of the Lavender Association of Western Colorado, sees huge potential in lavender as a cash crop in Western Colorado.
“You see places like California and Washington producing large quantities of lavender, and I thought: ‘Why not here, why not us?’ ” she said.
According to Kimbrough, there are 16,000 commercial lavender plants in Western Colorado and 20 commercial growers from Palisade to Paonia, numbers she hopes will grow in the coming years.
Palisade, known for its peach orchards and grape vineyards, stands to benefit from an influx of lavender farms, she said.
“There’s huge potential for agritourism with this type of operation,” Kimbrough said.
The lavender association teamed up with the Colorado State University extension office in Grand Junction to study the sustainability of lavender in the area. The plant is a perennial, which means it grows back each year, and it can have a lifespan of 15 to 20 years. It’s harvested in July, the peak growth of the plant.
The Lavender Association of Western Colorado, a nonprofit organization created in 2009, works to sell the lavender oils, salves and other products at farmers markets in the area.
“It’s a way to create jobs,” Kimbrough said.
Next year, Kimbrough and the association will look at hosting a lavender festival in Palisade as a way to promote the crop.
“We hope to make Palisade the lavender capital of ... the world,” she said with a laugh.
About a dozen or so members of the Lavender Association of Western Colorado were on hand to help in the distillation process Friday at Cloud Terrace Farm.
Anybody interested in viewing the association’s next distillery operation is invited to the Redlands home of Linda Arnos on Aug. 28 at 2102 South Broadway.