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Meet the Crew: Sylvia!

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Sylvia grows teams as beautifully and bountifully as she grows gardens and community! These are Marilyn dahlias, by the way, a Fruition original named in honor of Sylvia’s grandmother.

Friends, Sylvia is both the bedrock and best friend of us all! As Operations Director, she plans, directs and coordinates Fruition’s operations and supports our cross-functional teams, fostering a positive and productive culture for the Fruition Team. Sylvia’s profound care is embodied in each seed and each of us, which includes you ~

What gives you hope in the world, Sylvia? 

Living in a community with people that center care for each other, themselves and our earth (as best we can in this messy world). After moving home to the Finger Lakes in 2020, we hosted some very sweet gatherings around a fire pit in our forest. We’d laugh, cry, sing, share and eat and slow down enough to notice each other and the world around us. These gatherings always gave me hope. 

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When did you first garden?

When I was less than 5 years old! My parents bought a piece of land overlooking Keuka Lake in the Finger Lakes and built a house to raise me and my brother in. The land came with these old gnarly vineyards full of Niagara and Delaware grapes. That is where we started… nursing those vines back to health and planting some new ones too! I learned how to trim and tie grapes and we planted a huge vegetable garden. My Dad stayed home to care for the vineyard, the garden and us while my Mom won the bread. It was important to my parent’s that we knew where our food came from and I’ve carried that curiosity with me ever since!

How have gardens grown you?

Trust. Trust. Trust. The first year I had my own garden I knew logically that the seeds I planted would sprout, but it took time for me to deeply trust they would. I found myself awestruck when they did what they were wired to do… sprout! Has anyone else had this experience? My garden has taught me to trust the seeds, my instincts, and others more each year. My garden also taught me to always grow more than I need so I could share with the birds, the chipmunks, and my friends and family. If you come to my house in the summer you’re very likely to leave with an arm full of chard, squash, beans, tomatoes and maybe a flower bouquet. Consider this your invitation!

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What is your favorite way to savor tomatoes?

Fresh and still warm from the garden with a cold slice of mozzarella is my favorite way to eat them, but my greatest connection to tomatoes comes from making homemade tomato sauce. It is something that my family has done for generations and if you’ve made tomato sauce before you know it is a labor of love. From picking the tomatoes to scooping the finished jars out of the boiling pot usually takes me a few days. The rhythm and relationship I build with my food in that time is profound and humbling. I have never looked at a store bought jar of tomato sauce in quite the same way! 

What is one thing you wish all people knew about seeds?

What it takes for one seed to end up in our hands and in our gardens. How many other hands have touched this seed? What about the parents, and grandparents and great grandparents of this seed? What pain, wonder and joy did the hands that held those seeds experience? What land (and whose land) were previous generations of seed grown on? Saving seed is one of the most human things we can do.

Is there a quote/poem that is particularly meaningful for you right now?

I recently listened to this podcast with Jane Hirshfield where she explains the meaning behind her poem The Bowl. Enjoy!

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Book recommendation?

Where do I start?! There are so many, but one I have particularly loved in recent years is Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. It is about how we come to be who we are through generations of good and bad luck, lots of love and resilience. It provides a really important perspective on slavery’s lasting effects on our neighbors and our communities. It reminds me, without a shadow of doubt, that our ancestors live on through us as we will also live on for generations to come. 

Is there land/landscape/ecology that particularly home for you?

The forests of the Finger Lakes will always feel like home, but I’ve also had the opportunity to live in and love many other places that feel like a home away from home. Kenya is one such place. I lived in Nairobi for several years in my mid-twenties and came to adore the Jacaranda trees lining the streets, the red dirt, and the way the light was just a little (or a lot!) more golden than the long grey winters of the Northeast US. My mind and heart feel more expansive when looking out over the high walls and long deep floors of the Great Rift Valley and the secluded mangroves on the coast in Kilifi and Lamu. I grew exponentially as a human a while living in Nairobi. Probably mostly because it was a unique time in my life, but I like to think the landscapes I came to love gave me some inspiration to pivot and grow as well.

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How did you first connect with Fruition?

Petra and I joke that we are pandemic friends, but it’s true! At the start of the pandemic I moved home to Keuka Lake from Brooklyn to be close to my family and ailing father in what felt like a very unpredictable time. Little did I know that a short stint working remotely from my home town would turn into me sticking around! At the time I was working for a large non-profit organization in New York City and when my projects slowed down at the start of the pandemic I had some extra time on my hands. I reached out to Fruition (shout out Dave!) – telling them I was willing to help out in any way – and started working on the farm team on Thursdays and Fridays. I met the sweetest people who inspired me and made me think that I might be able to find community here after all. 

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What are you most excited to grow this next season?

Fennel, nasturtium and apple trees! Fennel because I’m keen to grow more things that are good for my sensitive stomach, Nasturtium because it’s oh so beautiful and I love gardens that feed as well as delight and apple trees because, as someone who has feared setting down roots and sticking around, I’m trying on what it feels like to commit to a place and I see no better teacher for that than trees. 

Sylvia, we love you!

We love growing by your side, making community a verb and finding ever more ways to live into the wisdom that all flourishing is mutual…

…and we look so forward to how seeds will continue to grow us all ~

Sow Seeds & Sing Songs,

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& the whole Fruition crew

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