Firesky Farms was named for the spectacular sunrises and sunsets that are “my favorite part of the day,” said Shannon Harwell, who owns the 20-acre lavender farm in Elgin with his wife Sabrina Harwell.
Located on Lower Elgin Road, Firesky was started by the Harwells in 2020. They’ve built a home for themselves there, as well as planting 3,200 lavender bushes with the help of friends and family members. They’ve also started an orchard, put in grape vines and nursery plants, and constructed a workshop, drying and stock sheds, and a gift shop. In 2024, the Harwells plan to put in 160 olive trees and another 3,500 lavender plants, in addition to erecting shade structures for visitors.
“We want to make this place a destination where people want to shop and enjoy the plants and the beauty of the area,” Sabrina said.
A large, brightly painted water tank greets visitors at the entrance to the farm. The Harwells got the used tank from the Boulder Crest Retreat center in Sonoita, moved it onto their property, and commissioned Benson artist Doug Quarles to cover it with colorful native flowers and insects.
A small white shed houses the lavender shop, which is stocked with all things lavender. Old family photos and the cottage decor invite shoppers to browse the many products. Bath salts, natural bug repellent, lotions, candles, lip balms, pet shampoos, shaving creme, and shower gels all contain essential oils extracted from the farm’s own plants. French lavender varieties are used for essential oils and sachets. Sabrina also sells honey, chocolate sauces, sugars and herbal teas, all flavored with her lavender buds.
Harvest season is from late June until the end of July. A harvester machine works for the French lavender plants, but the English lavenders, which are the main cultivars for culinary use and make up approximately one-third of the Harwells’ plants, have shorter stems and have to be cut by hand. “It’s a lot of work,” Sabrina said. The couple does not employ any help, but calls in friends and family for planting and some of the processing. Their goal is to grow 15 varieties of lavender cultivars, each selected for desired traits and uses.
Lavender buds are separated from the stems by running the material through a debudder, which Sabrina calls her “Dr. Seuss machine,” an unlikely looking contraption reminiscent of one of the author’s illustrations. The buds are stored in five-gallon buckets before being processed into culinary products.
Lavender oil is extracted in a distiller that uses steam to extract the oil from the plant material. The distiller condenses the oils of the lavender plants into two products: the essential oil and hydrosol. Some uses of hydrosol include floral waters, mosquito repellent, cleaning solutions, and skin refresher.
Firesky is the first farm for the Harwells, who both grew up in Southern Arizona. In their early 50s they decided they needed to stay busy working at something that they could do for the long term, or as Shannon jokingly said, “until we are dead.”
He is still working part-time as an industrial engineer. Sabrina previously was a special education teacher and realtor. She was also a competitive weight lifter, competing in her last event at age 50.
The Harwells have taught themselves cultivation, harvesting and distilling processes with the help of online mentors. According to the couple, lavender growers as a whole support one another with advice and sharing products for sale. Shannon serves on the board of directors of the United States Lavender Grower’s Association.
Firesky sells their products at local farmers’ markets. The farm is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am-4pm. They have several Christmas baskets and gifts available.
“We are loving it,” Sabrina said. “I am just excited about sharing the farm with the community. Making it beautiful so people want to hang out and chill.”
For more information:
Address: 467 Lower Elgin Road, Elgin