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Lavender farm

The Fusons planted lavender for health reasons and now they have a thriving business based around the herb.
  • Lavender crusade

    Kevin Fuson works his curved knife through a sea of color, grabbing a fist full of willowy stalks and coming up with a handful of purple. He has a long way to the end of the row, but he doesn’t mind – he is on a lavender crusade. 

    Date Published: June 22, 2013
    Date Updated: July 14, 2017
    Tags: lavender
  • Comforting lavender

    Kevin’s wife, Lila, was diagnosed with a rare neurological brain disease called Myoclonic Dystonic Cerebral Ataxia. The condition is so rare that Lila has been placed in the International Human Genome Project. Pharmaceutical drugs didn’t help with the fatigue, restlessness, anxiety, and sleeplessness that came with the genetic condition. Lila did find comfort from lavender essential oils. She rubbed the oil into her skin and it helped ease the discomfort of her disease. “What better way to get a product introduced into your system than through your skin, the largest organ in the body?” says Kevin, pictured here with their daughter.

    Date Published: June 22, 2013
    Date Updated: July 14, 2017
    Tags: lavender
  • Growing relief

    Lila approached her father, Don Avery, and Kevin about the idea of distilling some homegrown oil for her own personal use. They started with 1,500 plants in a field on the 7-acre property near Paso Robles, California. Lila studied aromatherapy and attained her aromatherapy practitioner’s license. She started making bath and body oil, soap, lotion, and healing butter.

    Date Published: June 22, 2013
    Date Updated: July 14, 2017
    Tags: lavender
  • Not a cure, but an aid

    “Purchasing true oil is very expensive and hard to find, because the USDA does not regulate essential oil,” says Kevin. “Lavender products are no cure, but they are a huge aid to help manage the problems that come with the disease.” 

    Date Published: June 22, 2013
    Date Updated: July 14, 2017
    Tags: lavender
  • Evolving the business

    After the project got going, neighbors, friends, and family started asking for the lavender products. “Sometimes you just have to jump off a cliff and grow your wings on the way down,” says Lila. “That’s how we got started!”

    Date Published: June 22, 2013
    Date Updated: July 14, 2017
    Tags: lavender
  • Working with other growers

    Lila founded the Central Coast Lavender Growers Association (the first of its kind in California), and she is a founding member and vice president of the United States Lavender Growers Association. The national group is working with the FDA to regulate essential oils. Some manufacturers can add up to 80% fatty oil (like grape seed oil) to a bottle and deem it 100% pure, says Kevin.

    “The consumer is getting adulterated oil. Our oil, coming off the still, is 100% the real deal. It’s aged for 60 days and put in dark bottles before we bring it to consumers,” he says. 

    Date Published: June 22, 2013
    Date Updated: July 14, 2017
    Tags: lavender
  • Helping farmers get started

    Both associations serve as networks for lavender farmers and enthusiasts. “There was no solid information out there that you can go to if you wanted to start a farm,” says Kevin. “Worldwide, the lavender industry is pretty secretive, and they aren’t really receptive to newbies.”

    Date Published: June 22, 2013
    Date Updated: July 14, 2017
    Tags: lavender
  • Lessons learned

    When Kevin and Lila started, they bought plants that were the wrong species and “had to tear them all out. We didn’t have a reputable supplier, and we didn’t know what we were doing,” says Kevin. “The more we got educated, the more we realized that there’s a lot more to it than putting lavender plants in the ground. There’s a science behind it.”

    Date Published: June 22, 2013
    Date Updated: July 14, 2017
    Tags: lavender
  • Choose the right varieties

    With help from university experts and growers, they found the right varieties. “There are over 400 kinds of lavender, but there are only a few that you can get medicinal properties out of,” says Kevin. They now have 10 varieties on the farm.

    Date Published: June 22, 2013
    Date Updated: July 14, 2017
    Tags: lavender
  • Advice for beginners

    “We recommend that a new grower should always start with propagate cuttings, not seeds,” says Kevin. “We get better performance, the buds stay on the plants after they’ve dried, and we get better fresh cuts for our bouquets.” They have small greenhouses and a yard for starting baby lavender to populate the new rows.

    Date Published: June 22, 2013
    Date Updated: July 14, 2017
    Tags: lavender
  • Caring for plants

    Lavender is in the mint family and likes well-drained rocky or sandy soil. Kevin uses drip irrigation to regulate the water. Overhead watering can cause crown rot, he says. They have no trouble with insects or deer. Gophers chew a few plants, but Kevin uses cats to keep them away. This is a certified organic farm, so no pesticides are used. To control weeds, they cover plants with weed cloth.

    Date Published: June 22, 2013
    Date Updated: July 14, 2017
    Tags: lavender
  • Extracting the oil

    The oil is drawn from the plants by a traditional Alembic copper still. Dried lavender buds are loaded into the big boiler, the steam and elements are run through a series of pipes, and the essence of lavender is captured in the final, small brass container. The process allows for a high-grade essential oil. Once the oils are ready, Lila produces about 50 different lavender products in her studio.

    Date Published: June 22, 2013
    Date Updated: July 14, 2017
    Tags: lavender
  • A family affair

    Everyone in the family helps with tours, festivals, and events, including daughter Abigail, 10, Kevin’s parents, Mare and Richard, and Lila’s father, Don, who manages the field and takes care of the lavender. The farm is open to the public during May and June. Visitors can wander through the barn full of drying lavender, ask questions, and browse the farm stand that sits on the veranda.

    “I always remind visitors that it is an amazing way of life, but it is still farming,” says Lila. 

    Date Published: June 22, 2013
    Date Updated: July 14, 2017
    Tags: lavender
  • Learn more about lavender

    Kevin and Lila Fuson
    888/327-6528 Ext. 702
    lila@centralcoastlavender.com

    Here's another way to enjoy lavender! Try this recipe:

    Date Published: June 22, 2013
    Date Updated: July 14, 2017
    Tags: lavender

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