We sat down with Will Duncan of Skull Valley Lavender Farm to learn more about him and his business. As the holidays approach, be sure to check out his booth for amazing stocking stuffers!
PFM: Tell us about who you are and where you’re from.
Will: I’ve lived in Arizona most of my life. I grew up in Connecticut and first came to Arizona while hitchhiking around the country at age 18. I fell in love and even though I moved away a couple of times (India, Alabama, San Francisco) I kept getting drawn back to Arizona.
PFM: How did you get involved in agriculture?
Will: I first got into gardening and farming as a young man when I did a WWOOF program. (World Wide Workers on Organic Farms). Since then I’ve always loved the miracle of growing things. Even when I’ve lived in cites I always turned my apartments into jungles. When I lived in Tuscaloosa, Alabama I asked my landlord if I could till up the entire lawn and plant a garden. Surprisingly he said yes and the large garden was so fruitful we invited all of our neighbors to harvest and participate in it. For the last 10 years I have been making my living lecturing. I was thinking of doing less of that but now that I realize making a living on growing lavender is not terribly realistic, I am continuing to lecture. I do two lecturing tours a year and the rest of the time I enjoy staying put and working on the farm.
PFM: What do you sell at your booth?
Will: We have a bunch of different lavender products from culinary products to facial mists to lavender roll-ons and pure essential oil. We do small batch high altitude distillation and we are still experimenting with new products like lavender salves and spray for yoga mats. [editor’s note: growing lavender is hard work and processing it into these products is complicated and time-consuming.]
PFM: How long have you had your business?
Will: Skull Valley Lavender Farm was started by Bob and Anita Schelling 9 years ago. We began running it 2 1/2 years ago and have completed 3 harvests.
PFM: What’s special about your business?
Will: We use only natural growing techniques, which is a lot easier to do with lavender and herbs than it is with vegetables. We use no chemicals or organic sprays and we are slowly shifting the farm to fit a permaculture model. We have about 28 fruit trees as well as berries and grapes and most of the orchard is watered with harvested rainwater. We grow about 12 different varieties of lavender and are still experimenting with new varieties.
PFM: What are your plans for the future?
Will: We are hoping to expand into herbs to bring in a line of organic teas. We are also still experimenting with new varieties of lavender to find the best ones for our climate.