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Michael Richters, the lavender man

Many people have asked how and why I decided to leave my career of financial advising to start a lavender farm.  I tell them very simply, "I'm certifiably crazy."  Well, that's not the real reason.

The Decision

     I purchased the property in 2004.  But I could never really decide what I wanted to do with the five acres of pasture.  A few calves in the summer were always an option.  However, I could always imagine what it would look like if it was all planted to lavender.  Even though I had seen pictures of the fields in France, England and Australia, only my mind's eye could imagine what it would look like to see those fields of purple flowers backed by the beauty of the Rocky Mountains.  Finally, in the winter of 2007 I found a lavender farm in the Texas Hill Country where they had found success.  And, they also offered seminars to teach other interested farmer/gardeners how to get started growing lavender commercially. 
     With a farming background and a business education, it seemed like the perfect fit.  I put more than my toe in to test the waters.  In March, I ordered 18,000 plants.  And, on June 3, 2007, with the help of friends mostly from the Mile High Freedom Band in Denver we planted rows and rows of little lavender plants.  


A baby lavender. Provence variety

The Summer

NO RAIN.  From planting date until the end of August there was less than one inch of precipitation.  But, if you look closely at the picture above, you can see the drip line that was placed next to all of the plants.  The drip system conserved the available water to efficiently water the plants throughout the summer.  However, between running the irrigation system and hoeing the rows, it was a very demanding summer.  But, it was well worth it.

The First Crop

     Of the five varieties planted on the farm; Lavender Lady, Provence, Grosso, Hidcote Blue and Munstead, only one of the varieties blooms the first year.  That one is Lavender Lady.         
     Throughout the summer I remained as patient as possible.  But, it was hot and dry and the plants seemed to take forever to grow.  I never thought I would see the flowers that I was promised. 
     Then, toward the end of August, I began to see stems and buds.  Just a few at a time.  But, if I looked at just the right angle over the tops of the rows and blurred my eyes just a little, I could begin to visualize what those rows of purple would look like.  It was finally happening. 
    I can't say that it was a vision of Provence.  The plants were short.  And the stems weren't as plentiful.  But, I had rows of blooming lavender.
    In early October, before the first hard frost and snow, I cut and banded one hundred bundles of lavender.  My very first lavender crop.  They dried hanging from a laundry rack in my guest bedroom.  And I'm still using them as decoration and flavoring.


My Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Mattie, inspecting on harvest day.

Looking Ahead

     I am excited about 2011.   Some of the plants are going to be three years old.  And all of them will be larger and blooming by the middle to end of July.  And, I cannot wait to host wonderful visitors who can't wait to walk through a beautiful field of lavender for the first time.  I hope that everyone else enjoys it as much as I do. 
     After the flowering season is over, sometime in September, I will be harvesting the remainder of the flowers if there is any left and distilling lavender oil.   

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5100 N 109th St.
Longmont, CO 80504