The sweet fragrance of lavender is blending with sage in the northwestern Nevada air as growers discover its benefits as a cash crop.
“I look at lavender as having a lot of potential in this area,” said Ann Louhela, who is organizing Western Nevada College’s fifth annual “Lavender, Producing Value-added Commercial Products” workshop and tour for June 19 in Yerington.
The area’s harsh growing conditions are just what lavender likes: hot, dry climate and alkaline soil. The result is concentrated oils.
“We have a very high-quality lavender oil that can be grown here,” she said.
“It’s a very good niche market for this area.”
Featured speakers for the workshop are Christa and Marco Xavier Hermosillo, owners of Olympic Lavender Heritage Farm in Sequim, Wash. Their certified organic farm is home to an active agritourism operation where they manufacture products and are building a wholesale distributorship.
Sequim, now known as the Lavender Capital of North America, was once a dying dairy region, Louhela said. The community now hosts an annual lavender festival that attracts 30,000 people.
Local lavender expert Mike van Camp of Campie’s Lavender Patch in Stagecoach will explain planting techniques and water-saving irrigation methods during the workshop and tour. He’s been growing lavender for 11 years after being inspired by his brother’s Oregon lavender farm.
Campie’s sells a variety of lavender products including salves, lotions, oils, and soaps.
Van Camp distills the oils himself, while his wife, Diane, and daughter, Diana, manufacture the products in their home operation.
Campie’s also supplies lavender plants, with 40 varieties in white, pink, blue, lavender, and all the shades in between.
“I think we’re the only lavender nursery in Nevada,” he said.
The lavender products are the main focus of the Campie’s farming operation, while the lavender nursery is for “fun,” van Camp said.
It may be fun, but it’s also significant. He said they sold between 2,000 and 3,000 plants last year. Campie’s plants and products are sold at farmers markets and online.
Agritourism is another way the fragrance of lavender can be turned into a profit-making enterprise.
Lavender Ridge Farms in Reno has turned its lavender fields into a venue for weddings and other events. The farm, at 7450 W. 4th St., continues to sell some products, but the lavender garden view and scent are its main enterprise.
At the WNC lavender workshop and tour, participants will explore what is required for value-added products, including time, equipment and financial resources.
Participants will learn the best varieties to grow, where to find ingredients, equipment and supplies, labeling requirements and more.
The workshop includes product-making demonstrations and a tour of a new lavender demonstration plot in Yerington.
Hosted by Western Nevada College, the day-long workshop is scheduled from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. June 19 at the Jeanne Dini Center, 120 N. California St., in Yerington.
Cost, which includes lunch, is $30 for those registering by June 12, and $40 afterward. Seating is limited.
Online registration is available at http://www.wnc.edu/ce/sci/.