by Jon M. Casey
For people who are looking for high quality, fresh lavender health and beauty products to growers who are seeking the latest in lavender cultivars to expand their production capabilities, Sage Creations Organic Farm in Palisade, CO, is able to meet the need.
Sage Creations Organic Farm has been in business since 2005 and certified organic since 2007. Since then, they have become recognized as a leading producer of lavender plant material and lavender products. Owned and operated by Paola Legarre, Sage Creations supplies a retail and wholesale market that includes customers throughout the Midwest, Southeast and Southwest.
“When we bought the farm, we were looking for an alternative to growing peaches,” said Legarre. “The Bing cherry orchard was already established here when we bought the farm so we have continued to maintain the cherries after deciding to grow organic lavender. The two tend to complement one another. They are both ready to harvest about the same time, so that helps supply the local customers.
“Last year, we offered self-pick cherries as well as self-pick lavender. We offered self-pick cherries for the first time because we had hail damage to the cherry crop, so it affected our wholesale sales to our existing customers. Our self-pick lavender customers enjoyed the opportunity to pick cherries as well when they came to pick their lavender, so it was a good match.
Legarre said she’s been in farming for over 25 years, with experience growing row crops, organic herbs and vegetables in California before moving to Colorado, where she considered the potential for growing lavender. “With experience in growing herbs, lavender seemed like a reasonable choice,” she said. “It has a potential for a lot of uses.”
They started with 40 plants as a trial to see how lavender would do in the area. The following year they grew 1,500 plants. This year, they’ve grown to having more than 15,000 plants on over five acres.
“We offer plant material to other growers from plants that we have propagated in our greenhouses. This past year we added a new greenhouse with in-floor heating so that we could continue meeting the increased demand for our plant material,” Legarre commented. “We propagate our cuttings in that building. We grow three species and more than 50 cultivars.” The three species are Lavandula angustifolia (common name: true lavender), Lavandula x intermedia (called lavandins because they are hybrids) and Lavandula x Chaytorae.
“We grow a number of lavenders and lavandins in a trial field before we offer them to our customers,” she added. “I like to grow, harvest and process them for their various attributes. I want to see how cold-hardy they are. Also, I want to find out in what ways they might be marketable. Since lavender has a number of uses, it is good to know which are good for fresh cut, dried, essential oil or landscaping.”
For example, while L. angustifolia cultivars like “Royal Velvet” and “Buena Vista” are good for both culinary applications and cut flowers, others like “Maillette” are an excellent choice for distilling. It’s a top oil producer. Some cultivars are desirable for several uses and others are best simply as landscape plants.
In addition to being a plant supplier, Sage Creations Organic Farm also offers a variety of lavender products that include lavender buds, wreaths, lotions, essential oils, soaps, neck wraps, eye pillows and fresh and dried lavender bundles. They also offer heirloom tomatoes and potted culinary herbs.
Legarre noted that the autumn and winter months continue to be busy, because that’s when they do their propagation for spring planting the following year. This year was especially busy because of dry conditions during previous growing seasons.
“This past year, we’ve been busy replacing a number of plants that died back due to an extended drought in 2018,” she said. “We lost about 1,200 plants. It takes five years for a plant to grow to full size, so it will be a while before they are fully productive.
“We irrigate the farm with water from the Colorado River from spring until the end of October,” she added. “After that, we are not allowed to use that supply and the farm is reliant upon nature to supply rain and snow.”
Because Palisade, CO, is located in what is called “high desert” country, the arid weather helps keep a number of moisture-related growing problems to a minimum. Problems with black spot and powdery mildew are rare. Nevertheless, lavender farming does require weed control and some insect pest management.
“We use a lot of mulch to control weeds,” Legarre said. “We use fabric, cover crop and spent lavender (processed lavender stems) as mulch for the plants. The mulch is a great natural weed control. Bind weed is an ongoing problem in this area.”
Most recently, they’ve been dealing with a grasshopper problem, she noted. “They chew at the stem, and the flower stem falls over. They can be a real nuisance.”
Legarre said in addition to the help her family provides, she regularly employs four people to assist with daily operations. At harvest time, she brings in additional workers as needed. Considering the fact that Legarre and her small crew take care of every aspect of the business from planting, growing and harvesting the plants to distilling the lavender and preparing the products for sale, the entire operation runs very smoothly.
Farm business hours run from April through mid-September. In their off-season, the farm is closed, but they still take online and phone purchases. In addition to their regular summer business hours, Sage Creations also hosts a Lavender Festival, a Winter Holiday Open House and they exhibit at holiday craft shows. For more information on Sage Creations Organic Farm, contact Paola Legarre at 970.623.9556 or visit sagecreationsorganicfarm.com .