Once Coburn has settled into the role, she hopes to begin a process of strategic planning. “We’re going to do some pretty deep dives in terms of what were we, what are we now, and what will we be,” she says.
In addition to running the farmers’ market, CUESA has also developed a range of educational programs over the years, some aimed at engaging more consumers in cooking and buying local, seasonal produce, and others designed to help city residents get to know the farmers in the area. More recently, the organization has branched out to include both advocacy and youth programming, including their popular schoolyard-to-market program, which trains high school gardeners to become market vendors.
If anything, says Coburn, the organization hasn’t done the best job of taking credit for the transformational work it’s doing in a city at the heart of the “good food movement.” Under her leadership, however, Coburn hopes to help CUESA use today’s groundswell of curiosity about food and farms to make a tangible difference.
“For years, we saw the food movement as this mountain we were climbing. We saw it as one step forward, two steps back,” she says. “But in the last five years I’ve seen such a huge amount of forward momentum. I really feel like we are there. We are poised to make real change in terms of the way people eat and the way food is grown, distributed, and sold in this country. Sometimes we forget this is only going to work if we keep it going.”
As an example of this tipping point, Coburn holds up her conservative brother, who still farms conventionally. “He may say what I’m doing is weird, but even he has recently put in cover crop between his rows of conventional almonds,” she says. “It may sound small, but I’m seeing lots of tiny pieces of evidence of the way our food system is changing, and I feel very encouraged by them.”