CUESA Behind the Mask: Deven Okry | CUESA

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June 05, 2020

CUESA Behind the Mask: Deven Okry

In these times of social distancing, we would love for you to get to know our team better. Each week, we’re going to take you “behind the mask” with a different CUESA staff member, so that, even when our faces are covered, we won’t be strangers at the farmers market. This week, meet Deven Okry, Assistant Market Manager. 

Tell us a bit about you and your role and history with CUESA.

I will have been with CUESA for four years in August. I first found the job through a high school friend. I grew up in San Francisco and went to School of the Arts (SOTA), then and then City College. I’ve been a student the entire time I’ve worked at CUESA, and balancing work and school has been a challenge, but it’s fun. I just graduated from City College and was supposed to go to UC Riverside this year, but due to COVID, I’m now transferring to San Francisco State. I’m studying theater, and I really want to be an actress/director/writer⁠.

What was interesting to me when I first started working at the farmers market was learning about seasonal foods. I’d been to a farmers market just few times before I started working here, but I hadn’t really thought about the seasonality of fruits and vegetables, about biodiversity, and how different types of produce come in different varieties. Getting to know more about the food I’m consuming, and getting to know some of the farmers and their methods, was really eye opening.

As an Assistant Market Manager, I do a little of everything, whether it’s helping with setup and breakdown of the market, overseeing and directing people where to go, or helping customers at the Info Booth. As an operations team, we all work together to make sure the work gets done and things are running smoothly. We set the foundation for the market for everyone.

How has your work changed since the pandemic?

There’s definitely more work to do now because there are a lot of new rules we have to follow to make sure things are running smoothly and safely. At the Info Booth, some customers are especially on edge and they’re not always so nice, but I just try to provide good customer service, stay strong, and keep a positive energy in the market. We can’t do everything, but we do our best to fix what we can, provide the information people need, and be an open ear.

Working at the Info Booth, I personally take a lot of safety precautions, and we have to be very careful, like wiping down the EBT machine and iPad between transactions to limit exposure and keep everyone safe. But coming home from the market, I worry about my mom because she had cancer when I was in middle school. When I get home, I immediately take my shoes off and take a shower. I just want to keep my parents safe.

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

I think a lot of people don’t necessarily understand all the work that goes into making the farmers market happen. They think is just happens with a snap of finger, but you have to make sure things are set up a certain way, especially now with COVID. On Saturdays, I get here at 6:00, before most the farmers show up, to set up the Info Booth and Veggie Valet, put up signage around the market, and set up the loading area. Even the smaller Tuesday and Thursday markets require a lot of work.

What motivates and inspires you in your work?

This is my first job, and what I enjoy most is like having a good team to work with, and knowing that if I need help with something, they’ll help me out. They’re my work family, and I love them⁠. I also enjoy encouraging other people to support local businesses and farmers. To me, the food just tastes better if it comes from within a certain range, instead of sitting on the shelf for who knows how long. I also enjoy educating people about seasonality and the different varieties at the farmers market.

How are you taking care of yourself in this time?

I go back and forth between both my parents’ houses⁠—just being able to spend time with my family helps. I’ve been cleaning a lot and reorganizing things, just to like clear my head. I’ve also been writing and working on a screenplay, while I’m starting to work toward my BA in Theater. I have a lot in my head, so it helps to get some of it out and on paper. Rather than keep it inside, I can try to share it with people.

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

I really like the produce from Green Thumb Organics. I don’t know what it is about their produce, but it tastes so good. Their bok choy, broccoli, and kale are amazing. Yerena Farms for strawberries of course, and stone fruit from K&J Orchards. For hot foods, I’ve been trying a more vegetable-based diet, so like I’ve been getting the vegan Loco Moco from Namu, or a mushroom burrito from Mi Comedor.

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 »