JASON & SIRI
LOCAL ROOTS FARM
Seattle, WA to Duvall, WA
It was November when Urban Exodus visited Jason Salvo and Siri Erickson-Brown’s Local Roots Farm, located in the soil-rich Snoqualmie River Valley in the town of Duvall, Washington. The visit was originally scheduled for the following day but with heavy rains predicted Jason and Siri knew that flooding was inevitable. Winter flooding is so frequent at Local Roots Farm that the family has grown accustomed to scheduling their lives around it. When the river rises, their driveway and the main road to get to their driveway, are completely impassable, except by boat. While to some this would be a major inconvenience, Jason and Siri know that flooding is one of the main reasons they were able to afford to buy this naturally-fertile and mineral-rich land within an hour’s drive of Seattle. Proximity to Seattle’s multitude of fine-dining restaurants and a hungry CSA market, has allowed Local Roots Farm to create a sustainable business, allowing them to be able to support themselves and employ a crew of farm hands to keep everything running smoothly. Jason and Siri’s interest in farming started when the couple began shopping at the farmer’s markets in Seattle. They began growing vegetables in pots outside of their apartment, which led to the couple discussing the possibility of apprenticing on a farm. Neither Jason or Siri felt content working inside an office all day and they thought maybe farming would offer a better and more fulfilling quality of life. After a brief stint apprenticing, they jumped in and leased some land with a trailer on it for their first farm. For four years Jason and Siri cut their teeth, discovering the many lessons that new farmers learn along the way – pests to contend with, what crops aren’t profitable, marketing and selling your produce, etc. All the while they continued to live in their small Capitol Hill apartment. They knew that establishing relationships with restaurants would be crucial for their farm’s longevity and they set meetings with a multitude of chefs, learning the specialty crops they wanted cultivated. Jason and Siri spent a few nights every week working the land and sleeping in their trailer. For several years they looked tirelessly for land they could afford to buy near Seattle. Unfortunately, any acreage within a few hours of the city came with a premium price tag. When their current Local Roots Farm property came on the market they jumped on it. Now, with almost twelve years of farming under their belts, they grow roughly 15-acres of diversified vegetable crops and flowers that they sell through their honor-system farm stand, their CSA and to a laundry list of fine restaurants. Jason and Siri, like most working parents, are still trying to find ways to be more efficient so they can spend more quality time with their children, Felix and Beatrice. But for the time being, their kids are quite content running wild through the fields while their parents work. Leaving the city and the promise of a paycheck was a leap of faith, but through hard work, determination and strength gained from one another, Jason and Siri have built a business and a life for their family in the breathtaking beauty of the Snoqualmie River Valley. (Click here to jump to their interview)
What inspired you to move to the country?
I wanted to grow vegetables and be my own boss!
Initially what was the hardest part about making the move? What challenges came later?
At first, we lived part time in the city in a small apartment and slept a few nights a week in a trailer on the land we leased the first 4 years. After we bought our own property, we moved full time to the farm. The hardest part was finding a new community out in our farming valley, and missing walking to the neighborhood coffee shop or grocery store. Now, we have a wonderful community of farmers and neighbors, and just have gotten used to having to drive literally everywhere we go. Our biggest ongoing challenges are trying to find the right scale for our farm to support us and not be all-consuming. Vegetable farming is a real marathon each season, and we are looking for a better work-life balance to spend more time with our kids and enjoy life!
What were the hardest things to get used to?
We had a nice gradual transition to living rurally, so no big surprises.
What do you miss the most about the city?
I miss ready access to diverse food options. If we want to go out for a quick meal at the end of a long day, our options are pizza or burgers… would love to be able to walk to a get a good meal when we are just too tired to cook. Also, being able to step out the door and be part of a swirl of ever-changing urban culture - I wish my kids could experience more diversity in their daily lives.
What do you appreciate the most about life in the country?
Being able to run this farm.
Why did you decide to start Local Roots Farm?
For the challenge!
What advice would you give to someone thinking of moving out of the city?
Make sure you know why you are making the move.
Are there any things you wished you knew ahead of time about farming that you had to learn the hard way?
Everything! But the learning the hard way has been great. No regrets.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to farm full time?
Work on a commercial farm for a few years to see what it is really all about.
Where do you draw your inspiration and passion from for your work?
From our customers and our employees.
Have you noticed a change in yourself or your work since moving away from the city?
Yeah, I’m more easily overwhelmed by places like shopping malls or other places with lots of visual stimulus.
Are there things that you are able to do here that you wouldn’t have dared to try before moving from the city?
Hmmm. Drive a tractor, I suppose.
Do you have a specific space or place that helps you feel inspired?
I like being out in the field full of vegetables and flowers at dusk, every day of the year there’s something new to see.
What are some common misperceptions about life in the country? What do you want people to know/understand about life in small communities?
Our community isn’t all that small, but I’d say, just like any community, people are connected in lots of different ways, so treating everyone with patience and kindness can go a long way toward building goodwill and community.
What are your future plans/goals for the coming year?
Take two days off every week and have fun with my kids.