By Pamela Dozois

Contributing Writer

Noey Turk, known as “The Plant Lady,” has been selling her plant starters at the Farmers’ Market in Solvang since its inception, helping Santa Ynez Valley residents to grow organic vegetables, herbs and other plants in their own gardens.

“Some people talk about not having a green thumb, but growing plants is a skill you can learn, just like playing an instrument or painting a picture,” said Turk, who is the creator of Yes Yes Nursery in Los Olivos.

Turk has been growing vegetable starters for 15 years. She is certified by the CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers) to grow organic vegetable starters, culinary and medicinal herbs, and local native plants. She started farming in 2002 making starters for her family farm, “The Garden Of … ,” operated by Debby and Shu Takikawa. The starters would then be transplanted into the field, and the nursery grew from there.

“My grandparents moved to the Santa Ynez Valley in the early 1950s. My grandmother planted a small vineyard in 1969. Qupé now uses our grapes to make their wines. My mother and her two sisters grew up on the farm, as did I and my brother Kai,” she said.

Turk’s “Yes Yes Nursery” got its name when, years ago, she ask a local farmer whether he grew organic fruits and vegetables. The response was “yes and no.” When she mentioned this to her stepfather, Shu replied, “There’s no such thing as yes and no when it comes to organic farming. You either are or you aren’t.”

Since she grows only organic plants, she decided on the name “Yes Yes Nursery.”

“Farming is not something you just learn and get bored with. I keep learning all the time,” Turk said.

“To be a successful farmer you have to have a huge amount of skills. The technical elements of farming are very complicated. There are a lot of variables: the weather, type of seeds, timing, and trouble shooting. I make my own soil mix and that was a huge process, filled with trial and error. Trying to get the nutrient levels balanced is very difficult.

“When planting in a field the soil is alive – it is teeming with life. It’s magical. But if you take a scoop of earth and put it in a pot and try to grow something, its magic disappears. So when growing plants in containers you need to create a media that will hold its structure, provide nutrients without breaking down over the life of the plant,” she explained.

While Turk was attending Santa Barbara City College and then UCSB, she spent her summers on the family farm where she tended the fields and cared for the farm while her parents were away on vacation. While in graduate school studying physics, she decided she preferred being a farmer.

“Strictly speaking, it was a choice of lighting – Did I want to spend the rest of my life working indoors under fluorescent lights or outdoors in the sun working in the field? The choice for me was simple,” said Turk.

With the help of her partner, Glen Dittmar, who she says has been enormously helpful to her, they began building a new greenhouse in October 2011 to shelter the seedlings. The 40-by-60-foot building was completed in February 2012. They also have 10,000-gallon water-catchers that are used to water the plants in the nursery.

“We chose the perfect spot to build the greenhouse because the land in this spot is all clay, not much good for growing vegetables, or much else for that matter.  It is always soggy, even in the summer,” she said.

In the spring, Turk works eight hours a day in the greenhouse, planting the starters. All her plants are watered by hand. During the slower months she does earth restoration work on the farm.

“I really fell in love with nursery work,” she said. “I started doing experiments with the plants. I’d hear about a new plant and say, ‘Let’s grow it and see what it’s like.’ ”

“My goal is to offer people plants that they need: food, culinary herbs, medicinal plants, and local native plants grown from seed. Everything is grown for a reason here. People ask where we get our plants – we don’t get them, we grow them,” she said.

“Some plants don’t show well in these little pots. After 15 years I’m still trying to convince people that once you plant them in the ground, these little plants will grow into something spectacular.”

Spring is the time for planting gardens that can yield a profusion of vegetables and fruit in the summer. Turk’s plant starters give gardeners a head start in producing a bountiful garden.

“You farm because you love it, not because you are going to get rich,” Turk said. “Farmers Market customers are literally creating a community that has farmers who love what they do. Customers are the lifeline of farmers, and farmers are a lifeline for the customers, providing them with organic food which is healthy and nutrient-rich. It is a symbiotic relationship. Please support your local farmer. People who want to change the world … well, it starts in your garden and on your plate,” she said.

Turk’s plant starters can be purchased at Farmers Markets in Solvang every Wednesday, or on Saturdays in Santa Barbara or on Sundays in Ojai. They can also be found on Instagram at @yesyesnursery and on the web at