What It Means to Volunteer at CUESA

January 2, 2020

As many of us start the New Year with intention setting, it’s the perfect time to resolve to give back to our local community. Whether helping kids learn cooking skills or educating farmers market visitors, you can grow thriving communities through the power and joy of local food by volunteering with CUESA. You’ll also gain valuable skills and make new friends along the way.

Making our farmers markets and education programs possible are hundreds of deeply committed and passionate volunteers who donate their time and talents in support of local farms and healthy communities. In 2019, CUESA volunteers donated more than 5,800 hours of their time.

Some volunteers come to CUESA simply because they enjoy being at the farmers market, while others want to practice specific skills for professional development. In the process, they gain a deeper understanding of our local food shed and preparing seasonal foods.

Sharing Power and Joy

Valentina Fung, a volunteer who supports CUESA’s Info Booth and Market to Table cooking programs, says, “I started volunteering with CUESA because I wanted to feel connected to a community and give my time to a cause I care about, which is food access and sustainable food,” she says. “But over time, I found that it’s the people who volunteer with me and the CUESA staff who keep me coming back! The shared positivity and passion for food really resonate with me.”

Esen Boyacigiller, a Foodwise Kids volunteer, agrees. “What I love about CUESA is the sense of community,” she says. “You can tell everyone—from the volunteers to the farmers—loves being at the farmers market and supports each other.”

Volunteers are vital to CUESA’s mission and work, especially when it comes to the youth education programs. Charlie Osborne, a volunteer who supports CUESA’s Foodwise Kids program, enjoys working with kids every week.

“I think the most moving experience for me has been meeting kids who have never been to a farmers market before, and seeing them experience it for the first time,” he says. “Usually, they get to try a fruit or vegetable they’ve never tried before, and whether they love it or hate it, they always end up having a great time shopping around and sampling the produce. I just think it’s an awesome feeling to give them an experience that they will probably remember for a long time.”

Supporting Farmers

Volunteers also play important roles in CUESA’s fundraising events, such as our seasonal cocktail events and annual Summer Bash and Sunday Supper. Others have engaged with shoppers about budget-friendly cooking and the Market Match program, written educational content for the CUESA website, and taken photos of farm tours and events. Despite the different roles of support, CUESA volunteers all share a passion for local food and farmers.

“We need to support our local farmers, taste from local food makers, and engage with seasonal foods so we can choose the food we eat more wisely, enrich our local community and economy, and strengthen our food system,” says Christy Li, one of CUESA’s dedicated events volunteers. “You can do that by shopping for in-season produce, asking local farmers about their growing process and recipe tips, participating in cooking demos and tastings, or coming to other CUESA events.”

Debra Donaldson, a CUESA Info Booth volunteer, also expresses the importance of supporting local farmers. “It’s important to support our amazing, dedicated, and hard-working farmers by providing them a marketplace, which can help them build relationships with local restaurants,” she says. “I also love the close and loyal relationships some of our shoppers have for particular farmers.”

Giving Back

To celebrate our volunteers, CUESA recently organized a tomato canning and pizza making party at Eatwell Farm (a regular at the Saturday market). Volunteers also receive benefits, such as enjoying discounts on classes and delicious farm-fresh food at events. 

However, for many volunteers, giving back to their community is what makes them feel most rewarded. “No matter how small my part was in helping people access fresh fruits and vegetables, I come away feeling like I’ve made some difference in someone’s life and connected with a fellow food lover,” says Valentina.

Esen also shares a similar sentiment while working with Foodwise Kids. “There is no greater feeling than seeing kids try different vegetables they swore they wouldn’t try, and loving them after they prepared them themselves,” she says. “That’s why CUESA is an incredibly special organization, and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Ready to Become a CUESA Volunteer?

Join us for an orientation next Wednesday, January 8, from 6 to 7:30 pm at the San Francisco Ferry Building. Learn more and RSVP here. We hope to see you there!

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