March 13, 2008
Neighbors Cultivate Community and Backyard Business Growing Yountville Seeds
Yountville, Calif., March 13, 2008—Having watched Yountville’s Amy Giaquinta transform a rangy half-acre horse pasture into a wildly productive storybook vegetable garden, it’s hard to imagine that just a few years ago she was a young urban professional living in Los Angeles.
Giaquinta is a lifelong city girl and was raised in San Francisco. But in 1996 she and her husband, Jerry, then an Executive Vice President of Corporate Communications for Sony Pictures Corp. bought their first wine country property as a second home. At first Amy says she was lured into gardening to improve on a field that presented them with such a dismal sight during winter visits she feared her husband would see the property as a bad investment. Disciplined and thorough, Amy started researching gardens in earnest. By Spring, plans at the ready, she flew to Northern California and began carving out her first garden.
All these years later, with sons Jeremy and Jason, the Giaquinta family resides fulltime in an idyllic, two-story home on the edge of town. Urban life is a distant memory. Amy’s garden has become central to her life, to be shared with her sons, friends and neighbors.
With 900 seedlings in her greenhouse, two dozen subscription clients relying on her annually for tomato seedlings, gourmet grocer Dean and DeLuca stocking her produce (under the I Fratelli Giaquinta label) and her Yountville Seed Company up and running, Amy’s garden has graduated from hobby to commercial enterprise.
Yountville Seeds is a joint venture between the Giaquinta family and neighbors, Peter and Gwenny Jacobsen who weekend here. Together the two families farm neighboring gardens. Amy credits the Jacobsens with being her gardening gurus, noting they are exclusive purveyors to the French Laundry.
Their seeds, available now from Kitchen Library in Napa’s new Oxbow Market or www.YountvilleSeeds.com, are certified organic and from the 2007 crop.
Cosmos, mustard, and poppy seeds mingle with a variety of vegetable and flower seeds sufficient for a complete summer garden.
“We allow our plants to go to full seed and the seed pods to dry on the plant,” explains Amy. Pods are then gathered, crushed and the seeds released by Peter working with Jeremy and Jason. Seeds are shaken through screens to separate them from their husks.
For now, every aspect of seed production, harvesting, processing and packaging is carried out by hand.
Amy encourages first time gardeners to start now with turnips, carrots, beets and onions. “Just scatter the seeds anywhere and flick a little dirt over them,” she coaxes, promising that seeds reward the most negligent of gardeners.
I tried not to take this last remark personally, recalling that last year about this time in a flurry of Spring enthusiasm, I filled seven raised beds with 33 of Amy’s tomato plants and an assortment of vegetables before launching a schedule that swung radically between extreme travel and all-consuming professional pursuits.
The garden was struggling. “You need an automatic drip system,” Amy offered delicately one day.
Soon after, I emerged, bleary-eyed from a 12-hour job at the computer one day to find her hard at work installing said drip system in my garden with Scotty, the French Laundry’s culinary gardener . “I decided to make this your birthday present,” she said, fearing for the lives of her 33 tomato plants. No question about it, she saved my garden’s life.
Click here to puchase Yountville Seeds.
Click here to view more seed images.
Click here to go to the Kitchen Library at the Oxbow Market