by Peggy O'Kelly of St. Helena Olive Oil Company
Pruning. It’s an indication that harvest is over….old wood cut back to make way for new growth…a new season has begun. I always take time to give gratitude to the old growth and acknowledge the presence of it within the new….as life is a series of connections…all dependent upon one another….and never ending.
My journey began as a child running wildly through the hills of Yountville…soaking in the spirit of a land once inhabited by the Wappo Indians. We spent many long days hiking, making forts, swimming in the reservoir and playing with everything that nature provided. As I grew up and my older siblings entered the workforce I began to learn about the entrepreneurial spirit that ran deep in the land….Schmidts with The French Laundry, The Tiedmanns with Oakville Public House, The Original Oakville Grocery, The Catersons with The Wurst Place, Ann Grace and Ruby Redman with Napa Valley Mustards….and more. Farm to table was rooted in the Napa Valley long before the first vineyard was planted….there was no need to market it…just live it.
At 18, I ventured off to University in San Francisco. I spent 10 years running fast and far from the life that unbeknownst to me had taken root within my soul. After the birth of my first daughter I was drawn back to the Valley for farmers markets, family dinners and pet parades. It was in one of my visits that the olive tree came to light. A vintner was pruning the trees on her property with the aim of producing Napa Valley extra virgin olive oil. I was intrigued and soon drawn into the lore of the olive tree. The thought of bringing it back to life in the Napa Valley became my obsession.
I drew from the spirit of the Napa Valley I knew as a child to launch my new venture…and maintained my inspiration with the continuous energy of new growth in the Valley. I modeled my business after the leaders of the wine industry as olive oil was just as misunderstood. We opened the first olive oil tasting room/production facility in the United States and began our quest to educate our customer directly…..formed relationships with local olive growers and began our niche production of Napa Valley orchard designated extra virgin olive oils…and drafted our core message of preservation of traditions that help sustain the olive as a life-giving food source while honoring the land from which it came.
Every year when the old branches fall to the ground, I say a prayer of thanks for all that has come before….then look up at the new growth and am excited at what more there is to come.