Alicia Raymond wants land—the more the better—to dip her hands into. When Alicia and her husband, Mark, settled in Napa, they bought a small house on a large lot. Alicia loved the mature trees in the backyard, but after years of juggling a young child and a growing business inside a home office, the challenges of a small house became increasingly difficult. This led to a house-hunt, and they searched for a larger house with more land. But land in Napa is difficult to acquire, and after a few options frustratingly fell through, they decided to work with what they had.
They started a transformation of the backyard. Bushes were removed and trees were trimmed and cleared, making space for a detached home office. They also added an outdoor entertainment area with a fire pit and winding flagstones paths, intersecting with raised garden boxes. At the end of the garden and past a swing set, the land drops off. Below is a lower section of land with a chicken shed and the chickens’ pecking grounds.
I ask Alicia what was the most important aspect to consider when she designed the office. She quickly responds, “Lots of natural light!” Built with high ceilings, skylights and French doors that open to the outside, the office feels spacious and open. Alicia says, “I try as often as I can to step outside the office and on to the porch to take business calls. I like working so close to home. As a working mom with a six-year-old daughter, I love the ability to greet her when she arrives home from school. And it’s great when neighbors stop by after hours. Under our pergola we can enjoy a bottle of wine with fresh garden veggies.”
Everything in the garden is edible. Sustainable land is fundamental to Alicia’s core beliefs. After earning a degree in Ecosystem Science and Policy, and working in D.C. for a while, Alicia realized that the quickest way to elicit change was to work on a local level within her own community. She named her business Earth and Ethos. “Earth” stands for healthy soil, needed to nourish the human population, and “Ethos” for the fundamental values particular to a person, culture or movement. Alicia has been a wine industry consultant for twelve years, including five projects with 100-point wine makers. She works from the soil up, taking a holistic approach to who these wineries are and what they stand for. She’s hands-on and passionate about sustainability.
When I ask, “What sage garden advice do you have?” Alicia says, “Biodynamic soil from certified farms. I get our soil from Sonoma.”
The Raymonds plant three crops a year. In the early spring this includes lettuce, peas and strawberries. In the summer they plant tomatoes, squash, melons and cucumbers, and in the fall to early winter, they plant kale, broccoli and cabbage. Their favorite canned items are pickles and candied jalapeños.
The garden and the home are a micro-reflection of the larger vision Alicia has for the future of our planet: focusing on environmentally and sociably responsible products for a healthy planet and people. NVL