Farmers’ story dug out from vashon Island in Washington of the United States of America (USA).
Food Security and Sustainability have found their way into each and every one of our lives during this time of COVID. Seed sales are soaring as many engage or re-engage in growing food for ourselves both as therapy and as a vital need. With no farmers market at this time, we risk losing touch with our essential farmers who grow such gorgeous abundance for us, often inspiring us with their wisdom and helpful hints. This series of farmer profiles will hopefully help us stay in touch with our neighbors and friends in our community who work the soil to grow the food that heartily sustains us.
By Karen Biondo
Anyone who knows Zoe Marzluff and Keller Cyra will tell you they are a hardworking, thoughtful couple, committed to their belief in growing our local food system, cultivating sustainability of the land they farm and enjoying the pleasures of sharing their abundance.
Marzluff describes herself as a first-generation farmer, not born into a farming family. Cyra says the best learning is “jumping in and doing.”
The couple met while Zoe was an intern at Maury’s Sun Island Farm, where the seed of their shared dream of farming took root.
Their own curiosity led them to teach themselves and learn from their experience at Sun Island. During a subsequent adventure in Hawaii, they began sprouting micro-greens, and then came back to Vashon where they interned with Caitlin Ames at Matsuda Farm.
They began growing Gracie’s Greens at Keller’s family home.
After Cyra took a position with the Land Trust, the couple kept growing more micro-greens, selling them at The Vashon Farmers Market, West Seattle Farmer Market and the Vashon Thriftway — where islanders can still buy them.
When the couple started looking around Vashon for a place to start a farm, they landed on a beautiful half-acre, west-facing slope mid-island in 2019.
Marzluff is the full-time farmer, but Cyra, with his full-time job at the Land Trust, says he fills in the always-present gaps with harvesting, packaging and working on infrastructure projects like their 24-100-foot greenhouse.
Looking at the robust rows of food, one can see how thoughtful and intentional Marzluff is about planning their beautiful array of usual and unusual greens: Choi sum, spinach mustard, hon tsai tai and the most stunning row of massive artichokes I have ever seen.
We have all had to adapt to living with COVID. Marzluff and Cyra did not plan to offer a CSA (community supported agriculture, distributed in shares) their first year farming. But with the uncertainty of our Vashon Farmers Market and the unreliability of our bigger supply chain, a CSA made sense. The summer CSA is full and the fall CSA will be advertised later this summer.
It is apparent that COVID has made many of us more aware of just where our food comes from, so it is gratifying to see and hear people express their appreciation for the work of farming.
It has confirmed to Marzluff and Cyra that the work they love is essential to our community.
There must be some juicy bits for this to be a proper profile.
So many speak of Cyra as kind, gentle and calm — much-needed attributes in the fickle life of farming. As a teenager, he had many jobs, including one at Vashon Youth and Family Services Play Space, where he often took care of a room full of babies. Can you just see him there? I can.
What Cyra likes best about farming is eating, experimenting, building, feeling the connection to land, life and people. Plus the simple pleasure of snacking on radishes.
One of his least favorite things about farming is the little holes in the fingers of his gloves that let rocks in but not out. I sure relate to that and the one tiny pebble in my farm boot.
Marzluff is an ultra-marathoner; her longest run is 50 miles. Her take on crazy long-distance running is the mental challenge of being content with the present mile and not focused on the next 30 or more ahead. To surrender to that present task is liberating.
It’s similar to farming, staying focused on the plants in front and not dreading the 300 more down the rows.
If you see Cyra and Marzluff out and about on Vashon this summer, offer Cyra an iced Yerba mate and Marzluff a Negroni and they just may share a radish with you.
Watch for more editions of this new column by Karen Biondo (photo by Jennifer Hawke) who is a farmer and chef who currently cooks home delivery lunch for the Vashon Senior Center. She is also a member of VIGA’s Food Access Partnership. She enthusiastically encourages everyone to try anything in the garden (and in life). She practices curiosity on a daily basis. Reach Biondo at firstname.lastname@example.org.