By Andrea Yoder
If you read our weekly newsletters, Sarah’s name is likely familiar to you and you may remember some of the excellent newsletter articles she contributed last season. Sarah researched and wrote all of the National Geographic series articles entitled “The Future of Food.” You may also recognize Sarah’s familiar, smiling face as she’s been a member of our market crew since 2011. We've been working with Sarah for over 4 years and have come to appreciate her warm, positive personality as well as her other areas of skill and expertise. Sarah has become an important part of our farmer’s market crew and the farm in general. We have enjoyed getting to know Sarah over the past several years and thought you might too!
Sarah was born and raised in Wisconsin and currently resides in Madison with her husband, Justin, and their two playful dogs. Sarah is currently a doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin in Madison in the area of Environment and Resources. She will be traveling to El Salvador this summer to begin working on her dissertation which is centered around studying women’s management of household gardens in that country. Sarah’s career path and areas of interest have developed from a unique evolution centered around developing local food systems, an interest in personal gardening, and a contagious excitement for fresh produce, cooking, and naturally….eating!
Sarah grew up in rural Racine, Wisconsin. Her father grew a huge garden and, much to Sarah’s dislike, included Sarah in the entire experience. Sarah would have rather been having fun with friends and such, but instead she was working in the garden. Needless to say she didn't enjoy her childhood gardening experiences. Her parents tried to get her more involved with cooking as well, but Sarah wasn't into that so much either. It wasn't until she went to college that she began to develop more of an interest in food, gardening and cooking. She had a group of college friends who started doing weekly potlucks and began to ask questions about where their food came from. They started a garden at school and Sarah began experimenting more with cooking and experiencing different foods. During her undergraduate studies, she had the opportunity to live in Mexico for nine months. Part of the work she did while in Mexico involved spending some time talking with women in the community who made homemade tamales and other foods to sell at the markets. Sarah became even more interested in cooking and the community as it relates to food as she watched these women make their traditional foods.
As Sarah’s interest in local food systems and agriculture grew, she felt like she needed to get her hands in the dirt and experience it for herself. She sought out opportunities to immerse herself in local agriculture and that is how she came to work with Harmony Valley Farm. In 2011 Sarah contacted us because she wanted to have the experience of working on a vegetable farm. Unfortunately the commute from Madison was a little too far, but we did offer her a position on our farmer’s market crew. She was a natural fit and quickly learned the ins and outs of all the vegetables we grow over the season. With four years under her belt now, we’re happy to see Sarah’s continued excitement and interest in food continue to grow. Sarah also had an opportunity to work with Tipi Produce, near Madison, where she was a member of their farm crew for a growing season. Now she has personal, hands-on experience and a greater appreciation for how vegetables are produced on a scale larger than gardening. At Tipi she did weeding, harvesting, packing and more. She describes her work at Tipi as “very hard, but fun.”
Sarah brings a lot of skills and interests to the table. Last year we recruited her to help us with doing research and writing for our farmer’s market and CSA newsletters. She accepted the challenge and had a lot of fun researching agriculture and different food related topics as well as interviewing some of the producers and farmers who supply fruit for our fruit shares. She has also stepped up to the plate and become our Farmer’s Market Crew Manager. She helps us make crew schedules, design the layout for our market stand each week, and continues to stock vegetables and interact with customers.
When she isn't studying for school or working at the market stand on Saturdays, she enjoys some of her favorite past times. Let’s start with the one we both share….eating & cooking! Sarah likes to use cooking as a form of “kitchen therapy.” I asked her the hard question… “What’s your favorite food?” After a long pause and a little giggle, her first answer was “I really like bananas!”Beyond the tropical fruits, she considers onions, garlic and mushrooms to be staples in her kitchen and really enjoys a simple, well-made mushroom risotto. If you’d like to take her out for dinner, you can safely choose any restaurant serving Asian or Middle-Eastern food and Sarah will be very happy.
One interesting food-centric fact about Sarah involves her husband Justin and a weekly tradition they call “Burger Monday.” About seven years ago Justin, who works at a bike shop in Madison, started going to “boys’ night” at the Old Fashioned with some of the guys from the bike shop. The Old Fashioned is a well-known Madison restaurant offering 2 for 1 cheeseburger night on Mondays. Somewhere along the way their “boys’ night” was crashed by girls (including Sarah) and they've never been able to take it back! So if you are looking for Sarah and Justin on Monday evening, you will be sure to find them at the Old Fashioned enjoying “Burger Monday” with their friends.
Beyond burgers, bananas, and cooking, Sarah also enjoys non-academic reading, taking care of her own garden, hiking with her dogs, and going for bike rides with her husband Justin. We’re very happy to have Sarah on our crew and hope you've enjoyed getting to know her better as well. Next time you’re at the market, stop by and meet Sarah in person!