Connecting Farm to Family During COVID-19

April 24, 2020

Though she is not a chef by trade, these days Sonya Dreizler can be spotted at the farmers market on a given Saturday pushing a chef cart stacked high with produce. When shelter-in-place went into effect, Sonya sprung into action as a one-woman personal shopper and delivery person, bringing fresh produce to 15 friends and families.

A devoted Ferry Plaza Farmers Market supporter since 2002 and now CUESA’s Board President, Sonya’s love of food and community runs deep. She shared with us what it means to her to be of service to her community and find joy in the farmers market in this time of great uncertainty.

CUESA: Where does your passion for food and farmers markets come from?

Sonya Dreizler: Growing up in Sacramento, my parents had a little garden in the backyard, and we’d also shop at the farmers market under the freeway. Our family loves food. My brother is a chef and restaurant owner, and he and my mom and I are all home cooks too. My mom cooked every single meal when we were kids. She would come home from work at 5:30 reliably, change her clothes, and start cooking. When I was old enough, I started helping her, so home cooking has always been part of my life. Now that I work and have kids, I wonder at how she did that every single day! But even when life is busy with kids and work, cooking is still something I  love to do. Cutting vegetables is meditative for me. 

How have you been impacted during this crisis? What has changed for you, in terms of your day to day?

Everything has changed, right? I’m endlessly concerned, worried, and anxious for the world and our community. For both my husband and myself, our work has been impacted. We’re home almost all the time with two little kids, sharing childcare responsibilities. But with shelter-in-place, things have slowed down a lot, so I’ve been able to come back to cooking. I’m doing more forward-thinking meal prep, so instead of pressure-cooking beans at the last minute, I can soak beans overnight, which is something I never did before. The silver lining of my week is my farmers market run, which is my one major outing.

Can you tell us about your family produce pickup program and how it got started?

It started with a text group with a bunch of mom-friends. After shelter-in-place went into effect, when I went to the farmers market, I asked the group if anybody wanted me to pick anything up for them. They said, “Well, what do you get?” or “Just get whatever looks good.”

So, it started with those five families and grew from there. I mentioned it on social media, and a few more people said they would like to order. On the third week, I realized I needed to get more organized, so I put together a form for people to fill out. Now I have my shopping list in Excel and can place orders with farmers in advance for 12 boxes of eggs or 30 apples, for example. I think I hit my max capacity last week, shopping for 15 families. I want to do as much as I can do as one person.

When I come home from the market, my older son helps me sort the food for each family, which is a whole production. When we deliver to the families we know, it’s so fun to see their faces. We do contactless delivery, ring the doorbell and then they wave from the window and we wave from our car. I bring my son on the drive, so he can see his friends from the window, which is both sweet and heartbreaking. He looks forward to it all week. 

What has been the reaction from the families?

They totally look forward to it, too! It’s the highlight of my week, and for many of them, it’s the highlight of theirs⁠⁠—ordering produce for the week, unpacking their box of goodies, getting to see friends in person even though it’s from afar. The anticipation and the joy that great food brings are small, beautiful things to look forward to and relish right now. I get text messages throughout the week, sharing favorite foods or recipes. Some of the families are prior farmers market shoppers, but many of them are not, so I get to introduce them to new foods. I have my like favorite things, like Oro Blancos or fresh shelling peas, so some folks are learning about foods that they might not have thought to purchase, what’s good, and what’s in season. People are also loving the flowers⁠⁠—having something beautiful in their homes.

Initially some people ordered because they wanted to support the small farmers and food businesses, and once they realized how amazing the food is, they’re enjoying it for themselves, too. When I get home from the market, I write up “receipts” and always include what farm or producer each item is from so people to know that it’s from a specific farmer and specific place.

What does it meant you to be connecting families with farms in these challenging times? 

Oh my gosh, it makes my heart so happy! Cooking, shopping, and feeding people brings me so much joy; to be able to do that on a larger level is fantastic. I’ve been shopping the market for a long time, and now I’m starting to get to know some of the farmers better, too, as I’ve been ordering more from them. It’s been really nice to have that connection with farmers and small food producers, and hear how they are working to innovate and get creative in this difficult situation. 

The market itself is a form of community, and I’m so grateful to CUESA for holding this physical space that supports the Bay Area, and greater California community of farmers, food producers, and our local economy. To be able to connect that with my local friends, family, and community feels important and heartwarming, especially in this time when so many people are isolated, and there is so much despair and hardship. It brings me joy to support our local economy and our local businesses and connect community around good food.

Keep small farms and the farmers market thriving. Donate to CUESA’s Save Your Farmers Market Fund.

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