Southwest Lavender Conference: Beyond the Basics

The 2012 SWLC was held in Grand Junction, Colorado and sponsored by the Lavender Association of Western Colorado. It was a great time to learn about lavender production and farming and go beyond the basics!

 by Jack Harrington

The Southwest Lavender Conference, hosted by the Lavender Association of Western Coloradoin September at Grand Junction, offered a number of surprises. Not that it wasn't an excellently run conference —it was. And credit for that, and the great regional tour of farms and wineries that followed, should go to conference chair Kathy Kimbrough as well as key LAWC members Paola Legarre and Paula Bockman.

Mount Garfield rising above the Colorado River

The surprises for those unfamiliar with the “western slope” communities in the Grand Valley was not only the spectacular scenery surrounding the Grand Junction area but the wide spectrum of lavender varieties being grown in this relatively dry, high-elevation environment. The steadily increasing number of lavender growers in the region are gaining attention in an area that is best-known for its vineyards and fruit orchards.

Lavender between grapevines


The conference, attended by more than 60 from 9 states, was held in the modern Two Rivers Convention Center in downtown Grand Junction, where out-of-town participants stayed footsteps away at three excellent major brand hotels that anchor a restored historic business district. Filled with unique shops and restaurants, each block also displays impressive sculptures and other works of art. Minutes away, across the Colorado River, is the spectacular Colorado National Monument, a place that photos just cannot begin to do justice. Definitely a destination for locals as well as out-of-town visitors.


The program for the Southwest Lavender Conference was geared to existing growers, focusing on post-harvest products. For beginning growers, a separate pre-conference workshop was added, presented by Susan L. Harrington, of Labyrinth Hill Lavender in Washington State.

Opening General Session on “Five Things We Must Do to Move American Aromatherapy Forward” was presented by Dr. Raphael D'Angelo, director of the Center for Holistic & Integrative Medicine, Aurora, Colorado, followed by Susan Harrington's investigation of growers' Internet marketing practices during “CSI: Grand Junction.” Dr. Raphael opened the second day's general session with “The Doctor's New Black Bag,” new tools for fighting infections using essential oils. “Growing the Right Lavenders for Essential Oils” was the natural followup session, presented by Sarah Bader, of Lavender at Stonegate near Portland, Oregon. Her work developing her 5,000-plant, 5-acre farm is the basis for her recently published book, “The Lavender Lover's Handbook.” Closing out the general sessions, Rhonda Follman, of Colorado State University Extension, outlined provisions and impact of the state's new Cottage Foods Act.

Eight break-out sessions closed out the conference, all presented by professionals from throughout Colorado. The Culinary track offered “Getting Started with Culinary Lavender,” “Farm Fresh Foods and Lavender” and “Cooking with Wine and Lavender.”

The Essential Oil & Aromatherapy track featured “Saving Ourselves From the Stress that is Killing Us,” “Using Hydrosols in Cosmetics,” “Hydrosols: Fresh, Local, Accessible Aromatherapy,” and “Beachcombing for Lavender.”

With perfect 70-degree weather throughout the weekend, the LAWC offered an amazing, post-conference tour of the region's diverse lavender farms and gift shops, fruit orchards, and the CSU Orchard Mesa Research Center. Dr. Curtis Swift described his work on the effects of lavender growing between the grapevines, and irrigation issues. A charter-bus load of impressed, mostly out-of-area growers were then treated to a gourmet lunch at the famous Wine Country Inn. The group traveled east to even higher altitudes to see another small-scale grower's start-up lavender farm and topped off the day-long adventure at Azura Winery, situated above a deep valley and facing a breathtaking panorama of skyscraping Colorado peaks. For those of us from outside the region, the tour was an impressive demonstration of the Western Colorado horticultural industry.

For more information on the Lavender Association of Western Colorado, visit