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| Marketing Lavender |
Answered by: Richard Alan Miller
Question from: Anna Stark
Posted on: June 17, 1998
I am considering growing lavender commercially, but have very little knowledge of how to market it. I see that you have a commercial conference in October. Will you have anything on this subject, or do you know how I could find any information.
Lavender is fun to grow, but has serious harvesting considerations. It likes to grow on hostile soils with good slant/drainage (14%) - perfect for that back 14 acres now useless for even cattle. However, what do you plan to market? The flower petal is the largest market, now supplied by France (for the last 200 years). Their price landed? U.S. $4.00/lb. These are used in formulas and potpourri mixes.
Stripping the petal off the spike is labor intensive, and usually does not show profits when done by hand. This means you will also need to invent a petal stripper as part of the crop development program. The French do it by drying it on spikes, and then jumping on it (like grapes). This then requires serious sifting and scalping of the stem pieces. Or they make oil for the cosmetic industry (via steam distillation).
Most domestic growers attempt to harvest and then sell dried spikes (with flower petals) to the Floral Trade (by the "bunch" or "hand"). Now you have a controlled Dutch system, again leaving minimal profit margins. The only way I’ve seen domestic growers make it profitable is by using it in a cottage industry (on site) program, where it is an essential part of the "package."
I plan to be at the October conference, and I think I have already met you (Anna Stark). How about an "eatable wildflower salad combo" type cottage industry? Actually, the oil in lavender can be duplicated with the hybrid Mentha citrata, with a yield 4X that of Lavender per acre. It’s nice to grow, but not yet profitable for the small farm.
[We are hoping to cover the subject of commercial lavender growing at the 1998 Richters Commercial Herb Growing Conference. Watch for an update on the Richters web site. -Ed.]