If you talk to Mike Teeple, founder and sole member of Red Rock Ranch & Farms, LLC, near Show Low, he’ll tell you that he didn’t start off to be one of the country’s most renowned lavender farmers.
“I purchased the property 27 years ago with dreams of retiring from the specialty construction business I owned in Southern California,” he states.
“I had been growing lavender in Southern California and I thought, ‘Well, these nice purple flowers would look great with all the red rock outcroppings. Maybe they could help with erosion and that kind of thing.'”
When Teeple first began cultivating lavender, he says that its beneficial properties were generally unknown. Even though its healing effects had been known to Europe and the Mediterranean since ancient times, here it was hard to find large amounts of it, he adds.
However, this was about to change. One day Teeple got a call from an individual who was very interested in what he’d been growing.
“This gentleman turned out to be ahead of his time in the States his knowledge of lavender for medicinal purposes, on its aromatherapy purposes which they’ve known in Europe for many, many years,” Teeple adds.
“He asked how well the lavender was doing; he knew the area that I was living in. And I said, ‘They’re doing really well, actually. They’re blossoming.'”
The lavender expert came to Red Rock Farms to see for himself, even sending back some samples to the university where he worked. A little while later, he returned with very exciting news.
“He said that he had tested the flowers, it’s showing that you have some of the highest quality lavender in the world.” Teeple states. “At the time, I had no idea about anything about lavender or what it does.”
It turned out that Teeple’s lavender, which had been flourishing in the high altitudes of the White Mountains, was known as high-elevation super lavender.
Realizing the uniqueness of what Teeple had, the expert kept trying to persuade him to expand his crops.
“I’d been in business a long time, I know those song-and-dances,” Teeple laughs. In the end, though, he admits that “He got to me, and I put about 40,000 plants in the ground.”
The rest is history, as they say. Today, Teeple’s farm draws in visitors from all parts of Arizona, the country, and even the world, all interested in seeing his one-of-a-kind crops.
And that’s not all. Teeple himself travels throughout the world on regular occasions, helping to, as he says, “design and develop unique lavender farms throughout the world.”
“It’s been very successful,” he adds.
Red Rock Today
Nowadays, many more people are aware of the beneficial effects of lavender, and that’s had a very positive impact on Teeple’s business.
“People come from all over the world to see this unique lavender growing, flowering in late June” he says. “They get to roam the fields and pick lavender, hear about growing lavender, and then we sell lavender plants.”
Teeple takes special pride in the abundance of plants that they sell to visitors.
“I develop and grow in our greenhouses unique varieties of lavender, true lavenders, which have to be propagated, they can’t be seed-grown,” he explains.
Speaking about these products, all available for purchase at the on-site lavender store, Teeple adds that “These are really exclusive products that you won’t find pretty much anywhere else. You have the opportunity to purchase some really high-quality items.”
And lavender products aren’t the only things available for purchase at Red Rock Farms.
“A great companion plant to lavender is wine grapes,” Teeple explains. “That’s what you see when you go to Europe and France. They’ll have lavender fields and vineyards and they are great growing plant companions.”
Based on his travels to Europe, and seeing the success of joint lavender-and-wine ventures, Teeple decided to expand back home.
“We decided to put a high elevation vineyard in with some really neat wine grapes. We even built a wine tasting room down in the lavender facility so we’ll be doing wine tastings throughout the summer and fall.”
“We know what we have here, we’re from California and the wine country region,” Teeple promises. Soon, Red Rock will be famous for not only producing superb lavender, but also excellent wine.
Without a doubt, Red Rock is an incredible destination year-round. However, if you want to go during an especially exciting and memorable time, don’t miss the annual Lavender Festival.
Originally, Teeple says, “we thought that we’d like to open this up for people to see. What I didn’t realize is that there’s this big thing with lavender festivals around the world.”
“17 or 18 years later, these lavender festivals have become very popular,” he adds.
According to Teeple, the festival attractions at Red Rock are an absolute must-see.
“We’ve got some really neat gourmet food trucks that cook food from France. We have cheese plates and wine tastings going on here and there, selling wines, and it’s a fun event. People flock to this thing.”
“It’s good to get out of the Valley heat up here, the temperatures are really nice, and we’ve got big rolling lawns that people will come and picnic on. It’s a lot of fun,” Teeple adds.
According to him, the proceeds and activity from the festival doesn’t just benefit Red Rock, but the entire community as well.
“Most of it’s been a word-of-mouth thing over the years, and it benefits everybody in the Show Low-Pinetop area. The hotels get booked up, the restaurants get packed, and it’s a good event and business point for everybody.
Because visitors are coming from out of the area, they stay for a day or two and see the other sites. So it’s really turned into a great event for everybody up here,” he concludes.