Pine Creek Canyon Lavender Farm grew from a simple question, “What won’t elk eat?” It turns out they won’t eat lavender.

In 2015, owners Terry Gorton and Rick Vesci planted 5,000 lavender plants on a Pine property that has historical roots dating back to the 1880s.

The business has thrived and in April became the first farm in Gila County Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) after demonstrating natural and sustainable growing practices, according to the owners.

The aromatic lavender plants are watered with water from Pine Creek, which flows behind the farm.

The 1.5-acre farm has a residential well and irrigation rights to Pine Creek that provide about 35,000 gallons a week. The lavender plants use about 25 percent of that amount, according to CNG records.

The lavender fields are hand-weeded by a full-time ranch hand during the growing season.

They use no GMOs, artificial pesticides or other chemicals.

Three varieties of lavender are grown on the farm. Two are used for cooking, including Provence, used in savory dishes like chicken and pasta and Royal Velvet, a sweeter variety used in baking.

“All natural culinary lavender that is free from any chemicals or impurities is especially important to us,” said Gorton. “We feel confident that everything we teach or sell benefits our customers in many ways.”

The third variety grown is the most aromatic — Grosso — used in essential oils, soaps, lotions and other products.

The plants are transformed into a variety of lavender products including candles, jam, soap and body powder.

Pine Creek Canyon Lavender Farm is among more than 750 farmers and beekeepers in the United States and Canada with the CNG label.

Their business has grown to include the Pine Creek Canyon Lavender Farm Cooking School and licensed bakery.

The cooking school offers classes ranging from making lavender spa products, to recipes including honey and lavender chicken, lavender pecan crusted salmon and lavender lemon morning cake. A list of upcoming classes is on their website.

A farm stand is open Friday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Many of their products can also be purchased online.

Pine Creek Canyon Lavender Farm is located at 4223 Pine Creek Canyon Road. For more information, call 619-772-6005 or visit www.pinelavenderfarm.com.

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