Volunteer of the Month: Barry Jan

August 8, 2012

sites/default/files/dsc_0278_7.jpgCUESA’s Volunteer of the Month program recognizes the dedication and work of some of our most active volunteers. CUESA relies on volunteers to help with education programs, special events, public outreach, and other activities that help fulfill our mission to cultivate a sustainable food system. Learn more about volunteering and sign up here.

Few market shoppers can say that they remember the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market back when it was on Green Street. Even fewer can claim that they’ve been volunteering for CUESA since then. Barry Jan has been a regular volunteer photographer at CUESA events, cooking demos, and farm tours since its pre-Ferry Building days. “Barry has documented almost every farm tour CUESA has ever organized, and hundreds of cooking demonstrations,” says Director of Education Julie Cummins. “His photos have greatly benefitted CUESA, and he is also a kind and enthusiastic participant who always offers to lend a hand when needed.”

CUESA: How have things changed since you started volunteering for CUESA years ago?

Barry: When I first started taking photos for CUESA, the farmers market was still at the Green Street parking lot. The early digital cameras were very primitive. They used floppy disks with a memory of only 1.4K. My present camera shoots 16 megapixels per photo.

CUESA: What was the market like back then?

Barry: Each farmer displayed fruits and vegetables, but there were no restaurants at the market. The food demos were new, and the only cooking implements we had were two 10”x10” tabletop can propane heaters. Have you ever tried to cook pasta using a 12-quart pot on these canisters? Don’t try. It takes a long time when the wind is blowing. Since moving to the Ferry Building 10 years ago, the market has added restaurants, many more vendors, and chefs from all over the country doing the Saturday food demos. I think this is a very successful project.

CUESA: What do you do when you aren’t volunteering for CUESA?

Barry: I sometimes volunteer my time as a photographer for other organizations, such as SF Chefs this month.

sites/default/files/catalan_barryjan_0.jpgCUESA: Where does your interest in food come from?

Barry: I retired after 42 years as a chemical engineer at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, which is at the mouth of the Napa Riviera. When I first got there, a lot of the workers were farmers from the Napa Valley. I asked them why they were working in a place that designs and builds submarines. They said that they didn’t make enough money growing prunes and walnuts, which made a second job necessary.

What got me into organic farming is that one of my grape grower friends sold me a small piece of vineyard land in 1976 and taught me how to grow grapes. I started with half Chardonnay and half mixed red grapes. We first sold to Gallo Winery as a part of the Napa Valley Co-op, and then 10 years ago, the winemaker at Merryvale Vineyards tested our Zinfandel grapes and now makes a wine with my name on it. I could not be more thrilled.

CUESA: What made you want to volunteer for CUESA?

Barry: To make CUESA work successfully, you need a lot of volunteers. I am one of many.

CUESA: What’s your favorite thing to make in the kitchen?

Barry: My favorite food to make in the kitchen is rice porridge, called “jook” in Cantonese.

Rice Porridge (“Jook”)
This dish usually made with all white rice, but I substitute part of the rice with other grains.


½ cup quinoa     
½ cup white rice
½ cup steel cut oats
Small piece of fresh ginger, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
Soy sauce, coriander, and pepper to taste
Small pieces of chicken, sausage, pork chop, or sardines (optional)

1. Soak the quinoa in warm water for 20 minutes. Dump out the water and rinse with running cold water. (This rinses off the protective outer layer, called saponin, which acts as a pesticide for the plant without the use of chemicals.)

2. Add the rice, oats, and ginger to 6 cups of water and heat to a boil, then reduce the heat. Simmer for 1 hour, adding the quinoa at the 30-minute mark. Turn off heat after an hour, when the mixture is creamy.

3. Top with the chopped green onion, and add soy sauce, coriander, and pepper to taste. The addition of the optional meat will enhance the flavor.

4. Enjoy!

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