PASO ROBLES — About 3,000 people with lavender shopping bags in hand converged on the Paso Robles Downtown City Park to enjoy the 9th Annual Paso Robles Lavender Festival, July 8, hosted by the Central Coast Lavender Growers Association and the Paso Robles Main Street Association.
This free, family-friendly event was teeming with vendors of all types, selling everything from lavender ice cream, lavender lemonade and lavender cookies to skin care products, boutique clothing and more. Local guitarist Martin Paris entertained the crowd and about 180 vendors lined the park.
Main Street Association founder Norma Moye was out with her team of volunteers handing out bags to visitors and said this year’s event was bigger and better than ever.
“We have more vendors and more visitors than ever, even on this hot day,” she said.
Don Avery was also at the festival again this year to share the process that has made the family business, Central Coast Lavender Farm & Apothecary, such a success: demonstrating the distillation of their organic lavender.
Lavender essential oil is produced using an extraction method known as steam distillation and at CCLF&A. They use a custom distiller made mostly out of brass. It has three chambers with a fire in the bottom, buds in the middle, and boiling water in the top chamber attached to a coil condenser. The lavender is usually harvested in the morning and allowed to partially dry for a few hours before loading it into the distiller.
“The steam literally boils the lavender essential oil off the plant material in the burner at the bottom where about 40 pounds of buds are,” Don said. “Then it works its way up through the charge. The steam exits through the lid and is fed through the condenser. Cold water running through a coil in the condenser cools the steam, returning it to a liquid form called the condensate. This is subsequently fed into the separator. The lavender water, known as hydrosol, discharges through a separate funnel at the left of the distiller below the oil surface where it is collected in a separate container. The essential oil, being lighter than water, rises to the surface of the condensate, and is collected in a beaker at the top of the separator.”
Don said that there is very little waste involved in the process and even the steamed buds of the lavender can be used as compost. The water byproduct, hydrosol is used to help put horses at ease and keep the flies off of the animals. Lavender oil is the end result of the distillation process and is made with CCLF&A’s certified organic lavender grown in Paso Robles. Their products are made with no added chemicals, allowing for those with health issues to use their oils, butters and balms without fear of complications.
Don’s daughter, Lila Avery-Fuson, is the founder and CEO of the first California nonprofit lavender growers association, the Central Coast Lavender Growers Association and the founder and chair of the California Lavender Festival. She and her crew can be found every year at the festival in their booth with the lavender umbrella and their giant purple chair.
Folks who don’t want to miss next year’s festival should visit pasoroblesdowntown.org for next year’s dates and event listings.