Volunteer of the Month: Janet McGarry

April 1, 2013

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.

If you’re an avid reader of the CUESA e-letter, you might be familiar with the name of our April Volunteer of the Month. Through thoughtful reporting, Janet McGarry has written about topics ranging from beginning farmers to gleaning programs to Asian vegetables. Some of her e-letter articles have been cross-posted by the food blog Civil Eats, reaching even wider audiences. 

“Writing articles for the e-letter is one of the more behind-the-scenes volunteer jobs at CUESA, but it’s one that supports our mission to educate eaters about our food system,” says Brie Mazurek, CUESA’s Online Education Manager. “It’s always a pleasure working with Janet because she has a deep interest in food and agriculture, and she brings that enthusiasm and curiosity to her writing. She can always be counted on to deliver on deadline, and when she finishes an article, she’s ready to go on the next assignment.”

You can sign up for the e-letter here, and read some of Janet’s articles in our articles archive

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

Janet: I spend much of my time reading and writing about environmental issues, particularly climate change and the conservation of tropical forests. Agriculture is a major driver of deforestation in the tropics, so I’m typically learning about farming in different parts of the world rather than California. I also garden and volunteer in the Botany Department at the Academy of Sciences. 

CUESA: Where does your interest in food come from?

Janet: Before I moved to San Francisco five years ago, I lived in Boston, where I grew vegetables and herbs in a community garden located on a working farm in a suburb of the city. I particularly liked growing heirloom vegetables and started reading to learn more about them. I didn’t cook a lot before I gardened, but once I started harvesting lots of vegetables, I began learning new recipes. I didn’t want to eat stir-fry or steamed vegetables for dinner every night!

CUESA: What made you want to volunteer for CUESA?

Janet: I read the CUESA e-letter and was impressed by all of CUESA’s different activities. The e-letter always had announcements about fun events and excellent articles about farmers, trends in agriculture, or other interesting topics. CUESA seemed like a great organization, so I started volunteering. A big part of why I have enjoyed writing articles for CUESA is the collaboration and editorial support I receive.

CUESA: What has been your favorite article to write? 

Janet: I feel like every article has involved interesting stories! I guess if I had to choose one favorite article it would be the last one that I wrote, called Organic Pioneers Reflect on 40 Years of CCOF. I was so inspired by the farmers who helped create CCOF and build the organic farming industry. They had real vision and tremendous perseverance; they had to ignore lots of criticism and skepticism during the early years. When I was writing that article, I kept thinking about Margaret Mead’s comment, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Our food system has many problems, but I feel hopeful when I learn about people who are working really hard to improve it. 

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

Janet: I love making cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s amazing how many great recipes there are for different types of cranberry sauce, so I try a new one every holiday season.

CUESA: Do you have any seasonal market tips for our shoppers?

Janet: I try to fight my tendency to get into food ruts by trying at least one new thing every time I go to the market. One unusual tasty vegetable that I grew in my garden back in Boston and now buy at the market is kohlrabi. It looks strange, but it is crunchy and sweet, and good raw or cooked. One of my favorite prepared foods to get at the market is Swanton Berry Farm’s blackberry jam, which is delicious. My husband and I have picked strawberries and olallieberries at Swanton Berry Farm’s U-Pick, which is in a beautiful location on the coast near Santa Cruz. 

CUESA: Do you have a favorite seasonal recipe you’d like to share with us?

I I’m on a chard kick right now. I like this recipe that I tried last week.  

Sautéed Swiss Chard with Parmesan Cheese


2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
½ small red onion, diced
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems and center ribs cut out and chopped together, leaves coarsely chopped separately
½ cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt to taste (optional)


1. Melt the butter and olive oil together in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the garlic and onion, and cook for 30 seconds, or until fragrant.

2. Add the chard stems and white wine. Simmer until the stems begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chard leaves, and cook until wilted.

3. Stir in lemon juice and Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt if desired.

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