Volunteer Spotlight at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market

Esther Mullen joined the Berkeley Farmers’ Market team as a volunteer in mid-June 2020 and has since donated over 70 hours of her time volunteering at all three of our markets! You may have seen her joyfully greeting customers at market entrances, helping ensure customer safety with crowd counts and line management, or highlighting our vendor’s offerings on our Instagram account. As we move into the fall, Esther will be returning to Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, where she is majoring in Environmental Studies with a double minor in Statistics and Geology. While we regret to see her go, we are incredibly grateful for the positive energy and generosity she brought to the Berkeley Farmers’ Markets in the last few months.

Why did you choose to volunteer with the Berkeley Farmers’ Market?
Growing up, my family and I always made time to visit the local farmers’ market weekly. As we began moving from the US to Germany to Switzerland, we always sought to find the nearest farmers’ market. To us, going to farmers’ markets was much more than supporting local farmers and purchasing sustainable food: it was also a family event. So, when my family moved to California, and I shortly followed, I looked to find a way to make volunteering and my passions overlap. The Berkeley Farmers’ Market provided both of those things.

What does the farmers’ market community mean to you?
Getting to know the farmers that grow your food, creates a great sense of connection between farm to fork to grow. Over time, consistently seeing these vendors 2-3 times a week, deeper relationships have blossomed between them and I — such a personable relationship between seller and consumer is not found at Safeway. The community created within the Ecology Center is also one very dear to me. There is endless amounts of respect and kindness generated by the other workers, always making me feel welcomed and loved.

What’s the most surprising thing that’s happened to you at the farmers’ market?
There wasn’t one specific moment that I was utterly surprised, however the gradual friendships I developed from the farmers’ market is what truly surprised me. I did not think I would meet such amazing people in such a short matter of time. And these people that I did meet, will definitely be lifelong friends.

What’s something you do when you aren’t volunteering with the Berkeley Farmers’ Market?
I work as a project manager for an NGO called Scientific Adventures on most days when I’m not volunteering. Our mission is to get low-income girls into STEM programs at a younger age so that they’re more likely to pursue STEM in the future. It is extremely time-consuming, but also very rewarding. Besides that, I love exploring the vast biodiversity Northern California has to offer. Being able to visit the national parks or simply walk around the beaches or redwood forests feels like a dream.

What is one farmers’ market food you can’t go without?
The whole wheat spinach Bolani from specifically the Tuesday market! Something about the Tuesday market makes the spinach Bolani taste that much better, especially if it’s accompanied with their pumpkin dip! WOW! That’s something I will not be able to find in the Midwest.

If you are healthy, not in the high risk category, and not living with or caring for high risk individuals, please consider volunteering at one of our three weekly farmers’ markets. Please reach out to Mariana Hamilton-Atkins at mariana@ecologycenter.org if you’re interested in volunteering!


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