Volunteer of the Month: Elizabeth Sy

September 24, 2021

CUESA’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. Most of our regular volunteer opportunities are currently on hold with the exception of farmers market, youth education and limited remote and office roles. Learn more about volunteering here.

After a 2020 hiatus partially due to the pandemic, volunteer Elizabeth Sy returned to the CUESA office to offer administrative and data entry support. She’s been actively involved with CUESA since 2015, and in addition to office support, she has assisted with our Market to Table demonstrations, cooking classes, and fundraising events. Nowadays, you’ll also see her at the market working at a couple of farms’ booths.

“Elizabeth has been a great reliable volunteer over the years,” says Cindy Mendoza, Volunteer and Special Projects Coordinator. “Once we were vaccinated, I was happy to have her back as an office regular. We definitely missed her and our other regular office volunteers last year. And know she’ll be there to help us with events since hospitality is in her bones. She’s one trustworthy and competent volunteer with a wonderfully positive and cheerful disposition.” Meet Elizabeth.

CUESA: Where does your interest in food come from?

Elizabeth: My interest in food came during my early hospitality career in San Francisco, working with hotel catering teams. My palate was awakened then, and I enjoyed NYC dining for the decade I lived there. I returned to San Francisco to spend more with my family in 2015 and, as a vegetarian, I appreciate the year-round bounty of delicious and sustainable California produce.

CUESA: What do you do when you aren’t volunteering for CUESA? And how has the pandemic impacted you?

Elizabeth: I was sad about the shutdown since I usually like going to events around town. I did a lot of walks and hikes, exploring the city, including stairways, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Presidio, nearby Lafayette Park and Huntingdon Park, which has great views. These walks were mostly solo, but I would occasional do socially distanced walks with friends. I kept up with family and friends by phone and Zoom and read a lot of fiction.

CUESA: Why are you choosing to volunteer with us at this time?

Elizabeth: I like meeting like-minded people and getting involved with my community. I didn’t volunteer with CUESA in 2020 due to the pandemic, but now I’m volunteering because I missed the social interaction last year. I get to chat with staff and other volunteers while helping CUESA in the office. I miss the events and hope they come back when it’s safe to do so. It’s so much fun when we’re able to gather. It’s also a bonus to come to the beautiful Ferry Building.

CUESA: What does the farmers market community mean to you?

Elizabeth: It means a lot more since I started working this year with Brokaw Ranch and McGinnis Ranch, helping them sell at Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. I love working with these farmers who are so appreciative of my support. I’ve learned so much from them about their products and how they are connected with their regular customers, both individuals and restaurants. It’s been a great experience getting to know all the regulars and being a part of the market community.

CUESA: Any favorite farmers market foods or home meal prep tips you want to share?

Elizabeth: Of course I highly recommend Brokaw’s creamiest avocados (the best I’ve ever had) and their juicy Red Ruby grapefruit. I also learned to love the kumquats for the first time with Brokaw; they had a short two-week season in May. I also love McGinnis’ flavorful Albion strawberries, French beans, Italian Romano beans, and Little Gem lettuces. If I’m not too exhausted from the market, I’ll clean and cut the produce from the day’s market as soon as I get home to help with meal prep for the upcoming week.