CUESA Behind the Mask: Brie Mazurek | CUESA

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May 22, 2020

CUESA Behind the Mask: Brie Mazurek

In these times of social distancing, we at CUESA are opening ourselves up to you, so you can get to know us a little better. Each week, we’re going to take you “behind the mask” with a different CUESA team member, so that, even when our faces are covered, you won’t think of us as strangers at the farmers market. This week, meet Brie Mazurek, our Communications Director⁠⁠. 

Tell us about you and your role and history at CUESA.

Growing up, I did not have much exposure to cooking or growing food. It wasn’t until much later, when I was working as an editor at a cookbook publisher, that I became curious about where my food came from. I remember being blown away the first time I visited the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. I wound up buying all things purple⁠—purple potatoes, purple peppers, purple green beans, purple carrots⁠. I had no idea such produce existed!

In 2009, around the time of the last recession, I took a leap and did something way out of my comfort zone: I signed up to be a farm apprentice at Green Gulch Farm. Following that eye-opening and life-changing experience, I decided to devote my passion for storytelling to helping city slickers like myself connect with local food and farms. I volunteered with CUESA for a while before a job opened up. (Fun fact: I was also a volunteer at Mission Community Market when it first opened in 2010.)

I’ve been with CUESA for eight-and-a-half years now. My current role as Communications Director touches on all the ways we engage with our community, from social media and in-market communications to pitching media stories and crafting big-picture messages. Up until recently, we had a talented social media coordinator named Savannah Kuang, who managed our social media channels and e-letter, but due to budget cuts resulting from the current crisis, we sadly had to let her go. I’m doing my best to keep all the balls in the air right now.

How has your work changed since the pandemic?

Like everything, our communications have shifted rapidly and taken on renewed urgency. We have fought to keep farmers markets open as an essential service, supporting over 100 local farms in food makers and providing critical access to healthy, sustainably grown food to our community. We had to focus on educating our public about new safety measures, getting our CUESA Farmers Market Box program up and running, online fundraising, creating online education, and of course, supporting our sellers as they are rapidly pivoting as well. I feel very grateful to have a job, my health, and a home right now, and to be supporting this community.

What’s something that you wish people understood better about the farmers market?

While there’s a lot of magic that happens at the farmers market, farmers markets don’t magically happen on their own. Lots of effort goes on behind the scenes, from farmers getting up before dawn to drive to San Francisco and set up their booths, to our operations team managing many logistics that make it all appear seamless. It inspires me to see how quickly the market community has adapted to new rules, wearing masks, social distancing, and following chalk queues⁠—all of which are necessary to keep farmers markets safe and open at this time. Holding the intention that we’re all creating and sustaining the market together⁠, while keeping our sense of humor, openness, and care, goes a long way in making the magic happen.

What motivates you about your work at CUESA?

It’s all about the community. Farmers, food makers, and chefs are some of the most hardworking, big-hearted, and visionary people I know. They are my heroes. Creating a fair, resilient, and sustainable food system was important before this crisis, and it feels even more vital now, which is why I’m especially grateful to be here supporting this movement in these times. When so much is scary and uncertain, supporting the generous, dedicated people who work so hard to feed us gives me a sense of gratitude, shared purpose, and hope.

What do you do to recharge outside of work?

I have been buying so much food at the farmers market, it feels like a constant, but fun, effort to tame the fridge! I also love taking walks and exploring streets in my neighborhood in Oakland that I haven’t before. I love seeing everything in bloom this time of year.

Do you have any favorite farmers market foods or tips you can share?

Where to begin? I’m a big fan of beans and eat them just about every day. Blue House’s Painted Pony beans are a new favorite. This time of year, I’m loving strawberries and apricots (probably my favorite stone fruit). And we always have lots of little jars in the fridge, including many ferments Wise Goat Organics. When I’m at home, it brings me special comfort to picture the people who make all this deliciousness possible—strawberries from Poli and Silvia, avocados from Mirella and Will, coffee from Fernando and Hannah…

Is there anything else you would like our shoppers and market community to know?

I want people to know how much their support matters, and what a powerful action they are taking by simply showing up at the farmers market each week. The farmers market truly is by and for our community. It’s an ecosystem, not just a collection of individual businesses or stands. Farm and food workers are, and have always been, essential, and their work never stops. We all must to do our part to support them. If anything positive comes out of this crisis, I hope that more people have an appreciation of our local food system, and how important it is to care for and prioritize the people who steward the land and feed us.

I also want to say a special thanks to those of you who read the e-letter every week and who engage with us on social media. I love reading your comments and questions and seeing photos of your market finds! Thank you for sharing your passion for our community and for growing the movement. And personally, I love hearing from you, so if you have any burning questions, feedback, or stories you’d like to see CUESA covering, please don’t hesitate to contact me at [email protected].

About CUESA

CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) is dedicated to growing thriving communities through the power and joy of local food. Learn More »