Volunteer of the Month: Jacob Bindman

August 13, 2015

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. Learn more about volunteering and sign up here.

It’s a rare treat to have a volunteer grow up and become invaluable to CUESA and the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. Jacob Bindman, once our youngest and most loyal CUESA volunteers, is finally off to college this fall. Since joining us almost 10 years ago, Jacob has seen CUESA’s volunteer program evolve and grow over the past decade.

His early Saturdays were spent in the kitchen with Sarah Henkin, the market chef at the time, with one or two other volunteers at most. As a precocious nine-year-old, he was drawn to the idea of using knives and cooking with fire. “I became hooked after my first Saturday,” says Jacob. “Little did I know that Saturday morning demos were characterized more by sanitation and washing dishes than flames and sharp objects, but I remained just as excited.”

Since then he’s spent countless hours supporting the seasonal cooking demonstrations and Foodwise Kids program, assisting at CUESA’s annual Summer Celebration and Sunday Supper fundraisers, and helping in the office.

Jacob’s enthusiasm for sustainable food and contribution to CUESA is immeasurable. “From his early days, he quickly became the most valuable member of my team,” says former CUESA market chef Sarah Henkin. “It was always especially fun watching him train new volunteers who were at least two to three times his age.”

“One of my favorite moments was watching him connect with a young cooking student, in whom he saw parts of himself,” recalls Elianna Friedman, another former CUESA market chef. “They bonded almost instantly over fresh, crunchy, crisp cucumbers.”

Current Culinary Programs Manager Carrie Sullivan will miss “his calm and collected presence in an environment that can sometimes be hectic and stressful.” She adds, “Jacob is wise beyond his years, is open to helping with anything, and is stealthily productive. Before you have a chance to ask him to do something, he’s already anticipated it and done it.” Thank you, Jacob!

CUESA: Where does your interest in food come from?

Jacob: I think more than anything else, my interest in food comes from CUESA and my experience essentially growing up at the farmers market. Over the past 10 years I have been able to meet so many incredible people at the market that the San Francisco food scene, and CUESA specifically, has become a huge part of my identity. My parents were never particularly interested in cooking, so I always enjoyed coming home from the demos and giving them both a lesson in a kitchen.

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

Jacob: When I’m not volunteering for CUESA, I am a full-time student. I just graduated high school this past spring, but when I am not in school or at the market, I like to spend my time volunteering and working with different food-related organizations in San Francisco.

CUESA: What is your favorite part about volunteering with CUESA?

Jacob: I think what I like so much about volunteering with CUESA is that it’s impossible to show up to a volunteer shift knowing exactly what’s going to happen or who you are going to meet. Even after volunteering at the weekly cooking demos for almost 10 years, there are still things every week, such as meeting a new chef, having electrical struggles, or helping unprepared guests, which always keep me engaged. What I also love so much about CUESA is how much it feels like a home. Because I have been volunteering at the market so long I really feel I have an understanding of how things work and where things are, and I always love talking to new visitors about the market and watching them discover for themselves why it is such an incredible place.

CUESA: Do you have an insider market tip or a favorite produce item at the market right now?

Jacob: It’s standard advice to talk to the farmers, but I recommend that shoppers talk to each other as well. I often find that when shopping I stumble across an ingredient that I want to buy, but I’m not sure how to use it. That’s when talking to other shoppers can be super useful. I’ve gotten great recipe ideas and advice from other shoppers, and it’s always something I enjoy doing because it really helps in creating the market community.

CUESA: What are your upcoming plans with school and moving to the East Coast?

Jacob: As I move to Boston this fall to start college, I am not totally sure what I want to study, but CUESA has influenced me to consider subjects like sustainable design, education, and social justice. I don’t even have to leave San Francisco to know I have been spoiled by incredible food my whole life. I am sure the adjustment to dining hall food is certainly going to be a big one, but I have already found a local farmers market. Even though it’s not open year-round, it looks awesome!