Araceli Lavender Farm Tour
In June, Araceli Lavender Farm in Dixon hosted their 2nd Annual Lavender Festival. What a treat for several of the Solano and Yolo Master Gardeners, who were fortunate enough to be provided a tour of the farm and fields, along with a basic overview of how they prepare the finished crops for various uses. The owners have created a beautiful, peaceful, serene farm that the public is welcome to visit during the harvest season.
We began the tour at the still used for distilling lavender oil, a 300-liter handmade copper still imported by the owners from Portugal. This beautiful piece of equipment takes several hours and A LOT of lavender to produce a very small 3-ounce container of lavender essential oil. We were delighted to see the lavender being added to the still when we arrived, two large boxes worth! During the harvest season, heating the still begins at 2:00 a.m., and is ready for the first batch of lavender for distilling when the sun comes up. Typically, two batches are done every day. It takes a lot of commitment and dedication to be willing to do this every day!
We continued on to the fields with an introduction to the seven types of lavender grown at Araceli - 'Grosso', 'Provence', 'White Spike', 'Royal Velvet', 'Violet Intrigue', 'Folgate', and 'Melissa'. Samples of each were picked and distributed for us to see and smell (oh, the fragrances were lovely, and each one was different!). It was such a joy to find such beautiful lavender grown locally, without the use of chemicals and pesticides. My favorite, 'White Spike', looks just as its name implies. It has a less 'perfumy' smell to it, and not surprisingly, makes for an excellent culinary herb.
On to the drying racks, where bundles of lavender are hung to dry naturally. An enclosed building with several racks (see photo) is perfect for this purpose. The harvested lavender is tied into bundles and hung upside down to air dry. Once the lavender is completely dry, it is ready for debudding. So our next stop was to see the Besel Lavender Machine, the debudder, in action. The stalks of lavender are fed into the top of the machine, where rotary brushes begin the task of removing the buds from the stalks. They then go through sifters driven by micro vibrators, and finally, a centrifuge vacuum system that removes any impurities and dust. The finished product is a container of clean lavender buds, and a separate container of stalks and dirt. We were told you can accomplish the task by rubbing the lavender stalks in a closed pillowcase, which I tried at home with pretty good, albeit messy, success.
The tour concluded and we were free to walk the fields of lavender. The fields are filled with bees with better things to do than bother the visitors. It was very relaxing to wander the fields, inhale the lovely aroma of lavender, and co-exist with the bees. What a joy to have such a beautiful farm so close for us to visit.
Interested in finding out more about Araceli Lavender Farms? Check out their website at www.aracelifarms.com for hours and information.
Located at: 7389 Pitt School Rd, Dixon CA 96520
Phone: (707) 640-1047
photos by Janet Snyder