Volunteer of the Month: Nancy Freeborn

July 5, 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.

Offering a great combination of professional and interpersonal skills as well as direct experience with farmers markets, Nancy Freeborn has been involved with many aspects of CUESA. She first volunteered her graphic design talents nearly a year ago when CUESA updated its branding and has since done rotations at almost every other volunteer opportunity, including the Discovery Station, Info Booth, events, and outreach.

Director of Development Christine Farren appreciates her “positive attitude and calm demeanor” and her “ability to evoke the market properly” with her design skills. Information Booth Coordinator Melanie Bourgeois adds, “She is very solid on everything about the Market, always ready to offer suggestions and help, and very reliable. She is also hilarious and lots of fun to work with. Nancy is fabulous!”

CUESA: What do you do when you aren’t at the market or at CUESA’s educational and special events?
Nancy: I divide my time between work (I’m a freelance book designer/graphic designer), volunteering in “my garden” (Golden Gate Park) with the Butterfly Habitat Restoration Project on Strawberry Hill, eating in and seeking out Bay Area eateries, hiking and walking all over this beautiful city and region, and spending time with my family and two grown boys.

CUESA: Where does your interest in food come from?
Nancy: I come from a family of wonderful cooks and gardeners, and we’ve always enjoyed good food together. My Mom especially was always busy in the kitchen and garden. Feeding large groups of people (and eight kids) is as natural to her as breathing, so when that is your world, it is a part of who you are. All my siblings are creative, hands-on people in their work and definitely in the kitchen and garden. I watch them intently and soak up their ideas. My interest in local agriculture hit me like a bolt of lightning many years ago after watching a PBS documentary about Alice Waters and her endeavors. As for so many of us, she made me realize the importance of knowing the food system and asking questions. That did it. I have been asking and learning ever since.

CUESA: What made you want to volunteer for CUESA?
Nancy: I moved back to the Bay Area just over two years ago after spending 23 years on the East Coast. During my years in Connecticut I co-founded and managed a farmers market. We depended on our amazing volunteers just as CUESA does theirs, so once I was settled in San Francisco I went straight to the CUESA website and found their volunteer orientation. I knew it was where I would find the people I wanted to know and spend time with. I was blown away by their orientation and the variety of opportunities they offered volunteers, so I jumped in.

CUESA: Where have you mainly volunteered?
Nancy: I’ve been involved with a few different volunteer opportunities within CUESA. All are equally interesting and rewarding. I’d say the Info Booth is where I’ve probably spent the most time. It’s the market day hub—busy, lively, social, and a focal point where vendors, customers, tourists, and staff come and go. I’ve learned a lot about the workings of the market from being in the Info Booth. I have also had the opportunity to work with the marketing and PR staff doing graphic design, which has been really terrific. Combining my work skills while supporting local agriculture is, to me, the best!

CUESA: Do you have any interesting stories from your time as a CUESA volunteer?
Nancy: I think once you spend time with and get to know a community—like the farmers market—you start to recognize and chat with customers who frequent the market, so you begin to see them as individuals, not just a mass of shoppers. You get to know the farmers’ names and what they grow, and the staff and volunteers as friends. The next thing you know, that community becomes your community. It’s inspiring.

CUESA: Do you have an insider market tip for this month?
Nancy: Eat peaches! And every month, talk to the farmers and ask them about their products. If a fruit or veggie catches your eye, but you don’t know exactly what it is, how to pronounce its name, or what to do with it, ask them. They love to chat with you about what they do, where they grow, and how they make their magic happen. They’ll look forward to seeing you next time you come to shop.

CUESA:  Do you have a recipe to share?
Nancy: My son just stopped by my computer and read my draft bio. He said, “Mom you should have used your corn soup for the recipe to share.” He’s right. It’s really good and a great summer dish.

Easy Corn Soup
Add 12 ears shucked, FRESH corn (in season and recently picked) to a large pot with about an inch of boiling water. Fresh corn needs to steam for only 10 minutes or so. Remove from the pot when done and let it cool for a few minutes. As soon as you can handle it without burning your fingers, take an ear of corn, hold it vertically/angled on a cutting board. With a sharp knife cut all the kernels off, slicing down the ear. Then, using the blunt back of the knife, press hard and rub the remaining bits and juices out of those open kernal pods. Do the same for all the ears. Throw that nice pile of corn kernels and juices into a blender with some of the reserved water used for steaming the corn (or vegetable stock). Blend all the corn (in batches). Return to the big pot and heat till nice and hot. Taste and add whatever you think it needs. Options: Use chicken stock, salt, pepper, and your favorite herbs. I like a dollop of pesto or crème fraîche on the top.

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