In September 2013, USLGA connected with St. Anthony's Alliance to learn more about The Lavender Project and to discuss how USLGA could support the project.  St. Anthony's Alliance wrote a great article that will raise awareness and we created a relationship for today and the future!

The Lavender Project, Com. La Colorada, Dolores Hidalgo,  Guanajuato, Mexico
by St. Anthony's Alliance

If you update an old proverb “teach a man to fish” with “teach a man to grow lavender,” you will understand of the 21st-century goal behind The Lavender Project in rural Central Mexico. The goal of The Lavender Project is to provide a sustainable, stable economy for the rural farmers of Communidad La Colorada based on lavender, innovative products and healthful, sweet-smelling lavender items sold to the tourist hotels and resorts of Mexico.

While lavender has become a common crop in the United States, it’s still rare in Mexico. The Lavender Project was conceived as a way to create a new harvest and economy for the isolated village and to provide meaningful work for its residents.  Mexico has a long agrarian tradition – and extremely hard-working and capable farmers -- but the idea of business creation and “agricultural tourism” are still new concepts and are just beginning to be linked to regional economic development programs.

However, The Lavender Project may be changing that.  Recently, The Lavender Project was recognized by leaders of the neighboring city of Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato for its venture into business and agricultural tourism.  Since then, television stations and newspaper reporters have taken note and begun publicizing the progress in La Colorada.

The project began in 2006 with plants and funds donated by an American nonprofit organization called St. Anthony’s Alliance based in Albuquerque, NM. That year, St. Anthony’s Alliance made contact with Peggy and the late Al Armstrong of Buhl, ID and arranged for The Lavender Project’s president, Aucencio Domenzain of La Colorada, to intern in their lavender fields. Domenzain spent three months in Idaho learning every aspect of growing lavender, while a young woman studied soap-making at Los Poblanos Organic Farms in Albuquerque, NM.

Today, The Lavender Project has about eight acres under cultivation on communal land, growing about five species from the English and grosso lavender families.  The cooperative produces lavender wands and several kinds of soap, including an exfoliating variety made with local cornmeal.  Approximately 23 people participate in the project, either as farmers, soap makers or part of a separate sewing cooperative, which produces finely embroidered sachets, lavender neck pillows and napkins.

Today, USLGA Member, Peggy Armstrong said she is grateful she “listened to her heart” and provided the early training for Domenzain -- and by extension, for everyone from La Colorada -- in the art of growing lavender and making products.

“Aucencio and his project have always stayed connected in my life", said Armstrong.

Credit also goes to the strong network of lavender growers across the United States who have provided advice, inspiration and counseling through the years. Recently, USLGA Member, Victor Gonzales of Victor’s Lavender in Sequim, WA, visited the cooperative and spent several days in the field discussing crop rotation, the best species for the hot climate and best propagation methods.  In Mexico, it’s important to select the right species because it seldom freezes and the plants never go dormant.

Sophia Trapp, the Mexican-based coordinator for The Lavender Project, said the cooperative is well on its way to achieving sustainability by 2016. Plans for the future include an exhibition garden on the road attracting tourists to the farm, another at the farm for photographs and picnicking, and an expanding product line, perhaps eventually including food or beverages.  Also on the horizon is a website that would allow The Lavender Project to sell products internationally.

“In my opinion the company has finally taken off in an honest way,” Trapp said.

“I am optimistic what could happen once we start implementing a serious sales plan with objectives and quantifiable goals.”

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 To learn more about The Lavender Project visit: The Lavender Project

To learn more about St. Anthony’s Alliance visit: St. Anthony's Alliance

To learn more about Peggy Armstrong visit: Annie's Lavender

To learn more about Victor Gonzales visit: Victor's Lavender

Are you interested in getting more information or helping out?  Email us at [email protected].