Driving through the Napa Valley during the winter, you quickly notice a yellow haze hanging just above the ground in between the ruler-straight grape vines. A closer examination revealed that it was mustard, used as a cover crop for the bare ground during the non-growing season. But why mustard?
I soon learned that Napa Valley has a two month long celebration of this mustard from January 27th to March 31st, called appropriately the Napa Valley Mustard Festival. It now is in its fourteenth year.
The idea for it originated with the Yountville Chamber of Commerce, a small town six miles north of Napa, in 1993. Yountville was trying to find something to help promote business during the slow winter months. The Chamber President George Rothwell had originated Yountville’s Festival of Lights and understood how a good promotion could enliven a town. He focused upon the yellow flowered mustard that was used on some of the farms in the valley for a cover crop, turning a waste crop into a major promotion.
What started as a simple promotion has grown into a series of events that stretch throughout the valley including: Fine Art, Dinners, Wine Tastings, Mustard Music, Photography Contest and of course Mustard Tastings from Around the World. The local farmers trim their mustard so that it is blooming during the entire festival.
The mustard in the fields is never harvested but that doesn’t hinder using an optical delight into a positive draw. What do you have in your town or region that you could leverage to your benefit?