Volunteer of the Month: Michelle Kilkenny

February 25, 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 roles. Learn more about volunteering here.

The pandemic has grounded Michelle Kilkenny, one of CUESA’s newest volunteers and a longtime market shopper, in San Francisco, instead of travelling for work as usual. With more time to spend here, she has jumped in to assist at the Saturday Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in many different roles.

“Michelle has been a joy to work with at all the stations in the market, whether at the Information Booth, Farmers Market Box packing, or the handwashing station,” says Operations Manager Andrea Akers. “She’s very interested in all aspects of CUESA and is very engaging with customers. I love that she volunteering at each station to learn more about us. We are really appreciative of Michelle for spending her free time volunteering with us and for just being an overall great human being. She’s a rockstar!” Meet Michelle.

CUESA: Where does your interest in food come from?

Michelle: ​I grew up in the Salinas Valley, a street over from the lettuce fields. Neither of my parents cooked well, so once I moved out of their house, I chose to learn to cook.

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

Michelle: When I’m not volunteering with CUESA, I’m working full time. The current crisis radically changed my professional life in that I used to travel internationally for my role. During COVID, my role hasn’t changed but the travel stopped. This really freed up a great deal of my time, such that I now can do yoga every day, volunteer with CUESA, and enjoy growing plants at home successfully.

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

Michelle: Without being on airplanes every week, I’m able to slow down and appreciate the opportunities here in San Francisco. While I have the time, I like to use it as wisely as I can. Giving back to an organization that’s provided groceries to my family for roughly 20 years is a very satisfying moment for me.

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

Michelle: ​Farmers markets, in general, bring fresh food into neighborhoods that might not otherwise have access. For me, it’s seeing families and people come together to participate in the larger community that means the most to me. Knowing who my food is coming from, which restaurants will service this bounty, and how I can help make that possible provides me with a great sense of belonging.

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

Michelle: ​Every Saturday, I break down the CUESA box, wash and dry any greens, roasted some veggies for salads or grain bowls, and generally try to have everything ready for whatever the week might throw at me. I find it helps me use all the produce and minimize food waste.