Local’s passion for the environment sustains her growing career as a chef

Local chef Maya Harrison.
(Leia Vita

Leucadia local Maya Harrison will play dinner host at the “Ode to Soil” farm to table meal pop-up at the newly expanded Thread Spun in Encinitas on Aug. 26. More than just a delicious plant-based meal, Harrison and other guest speakers hope to feed the mind, serving up an education on indigenous farming practices, permaculture and how to support local agricultural movements.

Harrison’s plate is piled high: she is an environmentalist and a surfer, a sometimes model and a life-long learner who is currently in school to be a classically-trained chef.

Harrison grew up at the beach as a competitive surfer. Surfing was her introduction to environmentalism, “just being aware of ocean pollution and sea level rising and seeing beaches fully go away in my lifetime…to see something change in a matter of 15 years was pretty intense and really fueled my environmentalism.”

She surfed in the Western Surfing Association, National Scholastic Surfing and for Billabong but she was never on the women’s world tour because she wasn’t able to afford the travel and keep up with pursuing her education at UC San Diego. The La Costa High School class of 2016 alum recently graduated from UCSD with a degree in climate change and human solutions with a minor in human rights.

Like many people, Harrison’s life shifted with the pandemic.

“At the beginning of the pandemic I felt that I wasn’t self-sufficient because I couldn’t grow my own food, it was frustrating for me to see all the produce aisles empty,” said Harrison, who also recognized industrial farming as a contributor to the climate crisis.

She really wanted to learn how to farm so she committed herself to living on a permaculture farm on a work-trade setup in Hawaii, learning to farm with zero pesticides and natural farming practices that are not harmful to soil and food. Working on the farm was also her introduction to learning how to run a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box program.

Harrison’s PSA on CSA’s: “They are a really beautiful way for people to support local farmers.”

“On the farm I learned a lot from my experience about respect. I got humbled a lot which was necessary for my growth,” she said. She points anyone interested in a similar experience to check out the local resources of Coastal Roots Farm, which offers a great farm internship program.

During the pandemic back in Encinitas, Harrison and five other co-founders started the nonprofit Sea and Soil Collective, focused on creating access to local produce and getting people into the garden as volunteers. With Sea and Soil, Harrison ran the CSA program —her most favorite part of the week was delivering fresh produce to people’s doorsteps.

One of Maya Harrison's salads.
(Leia Vita

“Before I lived on a farm, I did not know how to cook at all,” Harrison admits—she could make toast and she knew how to sauté some kale and onion. Living on the farm, she learned how to make deliciously simple salads, vinaigrettes, and how to make her own pasta.

“For me it just made sense, “ Harrison said. “We spent all this time growing the food, you have to learn how to respect the food, and for me that was cooking with these gifts from the planet.”

Harrison loves to learn and always wants to fully dive into things to understand them.

“That was cooking for me. It was a small spark that turned into just inhaling cookbooks to learn recipes and techniques and cook for larger groups of people,” she said. She would host dinner parties for friends every week to practice cooking for people and decided to seriously commit to culinary school this year.

She is now attending classes at the CulinaryLab Cooking School in Santa Ana.

Harrison misses getting her hands dirty—she is not farming as much now that she is stepping into the role of working with farmers and supporting them monetarily through her farm-to-table culinary experiences.

Harrison plans her menus with whatever is in season and whatever ingredients she feels most drawn too—she gets a lot of inspiration from other cooks and local restaurants.

“What I love about the events is that it’s more than just the food,” Harrison said. “There’s a purpose behind the gathering….I’m a forever learner and these dinners are always around educating people.”

Her last dinner was a wine pairing with natural wines where she shared about biodynamic farming and the regenerative wine space. She also hosted a dinner on April 20 this year to raise awareness and funds for the Last Prisoner Project, a nonprofit that fights for justice for people who are still incarcerated for cannabis crimes in states where it is now legal.

The upcoming dinner at Thread Spun will focus on taking care of soil health and is really centered around indigenous land stewardship. Guest speaker Lacey Kannan of Indigenous Regeneration, will speak about living on the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians reservation with her family and farming on Kumeyaay lands, many of which are food deserts that don’t have access to healthy, clean food.

A farm-to-table dish from Maya Harrison.
(Leia Vita)

Guest speaker Danielle Mariott will share her wisdom about farming on Oahu, a conversation about how can farming be a big ally for climate change—she will also speak about what is currently happening on Maui following the devastating wildfire.

The dinner event was formed through Harrison’s easy and natural connection to Thread Spun, a boutique with a wide selection of ethically produced and sourced home goods and apparel.

Harrison said she would religiously shop there (owner “Heidi (Ledger) has the best taste ever”) and she became a friend of the store and even served as a model for some of their sustainable fashions.

“Ode to Soil” is a chance to show off Thread Spun’s expanded event space and Ledger’s goal of her store becoming a community space where people can gather and learn…and eat. “I’m excited to celebrate Thread Spun’s expansion with this event,” Harrison said.

Thread Spun is located at 1114 N. Coast Highway 101, suite 4. Learn more about upcoming events at