Meet CUESA's Board President, Cathy Curtis

May 1, 2015

This spring brings many changes at CUESA, and not just in terms of the produce we’re seeing at the farmers market (stone fruit! berries!). We also welcome a new lineup of board officers: President Cathy Curtis, Vice President Markus Hartmann, Secretary Steve Sullivan, and Treasurer John Carlon. These dedicated volunteers donate their expertise and time to govern and support CUESA in fulfilling its mission and growing sustainably.

Our new president, Cathy Curtis, came to CUESA’s board in 2011, and she has been one of our most active and hard-working board members. She has served as our board vice president, marketing committee chair, and head of our executive director search committee. You’ll find Cathy and her husband, Rob, shopping at the market on Saturdays and mingling at every CUESA fundraising event.

Cathy is the founder of Curtis Financial Planning, an Oakland-based investment advisory firm dedicated to empowering women and their families to become financially secure. She also manages the Bay Gourmet programs for the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco. We’re lucky to have her at the helm! Meet Cathy.

CUESA: What inspired you to get involved with CUESA? 
Cathy: I fell in love with the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, which I have shopped at since the Green Street days, before it returned to the Ferry Building in 2003. CUESA’s work and mission feed my passion for healthy, local eating and for creating a sustainable alternative to the industrialized food system. Through my good fortune in getting to know the CUESA staff while collaborating on Commonwealth Club programs about food, I decided to deepen my involvement.

CUESA: Where does your passion for food come from?
Cathy: Well, it didn’t come from my mother! Although a great baker, she was more of a typical ’50s cook, who often used canned and frozen items. She was raising six children, all about one year apart, so she did her best to feed us well.

Being born and raised in San Francisco and having lived here all my life, I couldn’t help but be influenced by the food culture. In my late teens my best friend and I would jump in her Volkswagen beetle and go “dine out.” Our favorite restaurant was The North Beach Restaurant, where we would act all grown up and order petrale sole, cannelloni, and apricot sours. I remember my UC Berkeley days, when my roommates and I would head down to the “Gourmet Ghetto” to feast on artisan bread slathered with French cheese and sweet butter and enjoy truffles from Cocolat. It was hard not to be influenced by Alice Waters and all she was doing with Chez Panisse. 

I also had a long career in the packaged food industry up until around 2000. This career helped inform my knowledge about industrialized food and ultimately spurred my passion to get involved in the sustainable food movement.

CUESA: How does your work in financial planning inform your work with CUESA?
Cathy: Most entrepreneurs, whether they are farmers, artisan food producers, or financial planners, do their work because they are passionate about it. This doesn’t always mean they know how to run a business or how to make it profitable. It’s hard to wear many hats, and it’s important to seek out help, get training, and look at the big picture. I love that CUESA is dedicated to helping farmers and sellers grow their businesses through farmers markets.

CUESA: What is your vision for CUESA?
Cathy: I want more Bay Area residents to understand CUESA’s mission and to shop at CUESA-run farmers markets and go to CUESA educational programs and fundraising events! To make change in our food system, knowledge needs to come first. The more people know about sustainable agriculture and healthy, local, and humanely raised food, and how to cook with local produce, the more their eating habits will change.

CUESA: What’s one important change you’d like to see in our food system?
Cathy: I’m continually dismayed about the prevalence and accessibility of bad food (junk food with empty calories) in our grocery stores, convenience stores, airports, and schools. It’s encouraging to see progress being made, like Berkeley’s soda tax, the FDA’s menu labeling rules, and improved nutrition standards for school lunches, but so much more needs to be done. I would like to see more legislation passed to protect eaters and regulate companies that profit from selling junk food.

CUESA: What do you most enjoy about your work with us?
Cathy: I enjoy putting time and energy into work that I feel makes a positive difference in people’s lives. I value clean, healthy food, and I enjoy being around people who produce good food, who share this passion, and who are working to better our food system, even in small ways. 

CUESA: What do you love about the farmers market? Do you have a market ritual or any shopping tips?
Cathy: I love feeling confident that the food I buy at a CUESA’s farmers market is produced by people who working toward an environmentally sound, humane, economically sound, and socially just food system. I also love that the food produced in this way is absolutely delicious!

As far as my market routine, I try to get to the market early, so I can roam freely, but it doesn’t always happen. I always get a coffee first and maybe pick up something at one of the amazing bakeries at the market, or go to Primavera’s stand for a tasty breakfast (the ceviche tostadas are my favorite!). My husband, Rob, and I like to cook, so we bring a shopping list for a special dinner Saturday or Sunday night, and we don’t stop shopping until we get everything on our list. We just took a trip to Morocco and became enchanted with Moroccan cuisine, so last weekend we made Couscous with Seven Vegetables, substituting in-season vegetables for the ones in the recipe. Delicious!

CUESA: Do you have a spirit fruit or vegetable?
Cathy: I would say apricot or asparagus, but Rob says I’m a peach: sunny, sweet, and warm.

Meet CUESA’s Board of Directors.