When most suburban Chicago kids were eating sugary cereal before school, Peyton Cypress was drinking kale shakes. It might not have been his first choice back then, but his parents’ focus on healthy eating and mindfulness around an ethical food chain shaped his path.
A baseball scholarship took him to Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana, where he pursued a degree in biology – searching for a combination of focuses that could engage both his mind and his body. When the idea of an emphasis on organic agriculture became front of mind, he elected to set aside his potential as a right-handed pitcher to focus on academics.
But most of the traditional university programs around the country focused far more on classroom instruction than on in-the-field training. Peyton applied and was accepted to a 10- student apprenticeship at the Organic Farm School on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound, off the coast of Seattle. The six-acre farm was split between organic vegetable production and animal husbandry, and the students were responsible for every aspect – including managing restaurant contracts and running a farmers’ market booth in downtown Seattle.
Next he was selected to participate in the acclaimed “Market Gardener” Jean Martin Fortier’s program at Les Jardins de la Grelinette in Saint-Armand, Quebec, despite his lack of French language competency that was traditionally required for the position. There, he saw first-hand how a full-circle farm could operate synergistically, where animals provide the nutrients to the ground and vice versa, closing the loop and reducing off-farm inputs. That 10-month apprenticeship took him through another full season, from planning to harvest and distribution.
Months later, he was tapped for the agro-ecological apprenticeship at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in the lower Hudson Valley, just upstream from New York City. Working with the team at Stone Barns, his expertise in reading the needs of the land and its inhabitants was further deepened. There, he refined an ethical sense for what the long-term symbiosis of an organic farm truly requires, over the drive for maximum production.
Through a stint with Greener Roots in the hydroponic greenhouse at Southall, he was introduced to chef Tyler Brown, and began a conversation that lasted many months before each determined that Peyton’s talents were meant to be on this farm. As Southall’s farm manager, he is responsible not only for the property-wide agricultural production needs, but also for data collection and long term analysis and planning.
His time in Nashville has introduced him to a lot of new restaurants and hotels, but not a lot of new farms. He intends to leverage his passion to inspire new thinking in guests at Southall, to show them the beauty. And when they depart, to have inspired them to create more for the world in their own sacred spaces.