Human Flower Project

Lavender Neo-Farming


Lavender farms are blooming in proximity to cool cities: agrarianism in keeping with urban sensibilities.


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Cassie Doumas of Shelbyville, Kentucky, picks fresh lavender at the Los Ranchos de Albuquerque Lavender Festival, July 11.

Photo: Carolyn Courtney

Another lavender harvest has come and gone in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque. Photographer Carolyn Courtney, our dear friend, was there this year, in fragrant preparation for a workshop with Keith Carter in Santa Fe.

Carolyn and niece Cassie Doumas stayed at Los Poblanos Inn, a B&B that co-hosts the event. “Much of the food comes from the farm,” Carolyn writes—“small cottages to stay in - very private and beautiful. Peacocks roam the grounds and they sleep up in the trees.” Along with its vegetable garden and lavender fields, Los Poblanos maintains a beautiful lotus pond that captivated Carolyn, too.

 


imageLotus pond in bloom at Los Poblanos Inn, Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, NM, July 2009

Photo: Carolyn Courtney

The village, for many years an agricultural region, is now really a suburb of the New Mexico capital that shares its name; as Albuquerque proper sprawled north, the old farms and ranches began giving way to development, a familiar story.

Here’s a revealing passage from the Los Poblanos site.

“Several years ago, when the Village of Los Ranchos did a survey of the residents, residents responded that they would like to keep their fields in production, but they were no longer able to do the work themselves. In order to revive and re-define agriculture in the village, the Agriculture Committee of the Village contacted other towns that have had success with lavender as a specialty crop. In the early spring of 2001, efforts were initiated in developing the crop in the valley by installing three test areas….” This was town’s sixth lavender festival.

We find it interesting that much the same “redefinition of agriculture” has occurred west of Austin, Texas, where we live, with much the same result. Around Blanco, formerly cattle and sheep country, there are now lavender farms – and likewise a lavender festival, though the Central Texas harvest and celebration take place in June.

Like Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, Sequim, Washington, (between Seattle and Victoria, B.C.) and Ray, Michigan, (40 miles outside Detroit) hold July lavender festivals, too.

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In this region of former wheat, chili and corn fields north of Albuquerque, Russian sage grows today—as well as lavender, a new specialty crop and a tourist attraction.

Photo: Carolyn Courtney

We Americans notoriously want the best of both—no, of all possible worlds. More and more of us want to live in some proximity to big, cool cities and their amenities, yet have our old growth trees and fields, too. Lavender farming, in the U.S. anyway, seems to supply an appealing agrarian-ish lifestyle for exurbanites “no longer able to do the work” of full fledged agriculture “themselves.” It’s a “specialty crop” with a French accent, a way to farm disassociated from “redneck” plants like soybeans, wheat, or (perish the thought) corn. Lavender is a crop of a different color.


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Comments

Perhaps the next phase of New York’s High Line can be planted with lavender….It would be wonderful to have a lavender farm *in* the city.

Posted by Georgia on 08/07 at 09:11 AM
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