Judy Collins was a pillar of each community she resided in during her rich, long life. Born and raised in Minnesota, she returned most summers later in life to stay connected with family. She moved to Japan with her husband, Stephen, and later to Korea. While raising three sons (Matthew, John, and Andrew) there, Judy was part of the leadership team to build an orphanage.
After a stint in Germany, the Collins moved to the San Francisco North Bay and settled into Petaluma in 1980. Along with a small group of determined community members, Judy started the Petaluma Farmers’ Market to help farmers like herself have a Saturday afternoon market. Walnut Park Farmers’ Market is still a centerpiece of many Petaluman’s weekends.
Judy didn’t necessarily set out to break the mold, she just had a dogged determination to get things done, especially for the betterment of her community. She received a degree in Chemistry in the late 1950’s and was the first woman hired to work the research labs of 3M.
Judy was a community food security activist before that was a term. She identified gaps in the social safety net and devised solutions before most of her peers realized there was a problem. Judy was the original force behind gleaning at the Petaluma farmers’ markets and still coordinated those efforts as recently as 2018 to ensure low-income seniors had plenty of high quality food.
I met Judy when I joined the Bounty and she soon became a role model for me on a number of levels. Judy demonstrated a rare type of leadership that I will aspire to for the rest of my career. I would often ask if I could interview her or if we could somehow document her contributions and approach. She would not hear of it as she was not motivated by accolades or attention.
Judy led by example and her determination never once wavered – she knew her contributions were making a difference and her actions inspired many others. She would convene the volunteer drivers of the Bounty Hunters Program each spring at her farm for a lovely tea and each would sign up for their roles.
As the farmers’ market season gets ramped up, we’ll miss Judy’s warm greetings and quiet yet effective efforts to make Petaluma a healthier, more food secure community. Thank you Judy and Stephen for putting your love of community into action.
For more information about Judy’s life, please click on the link to her obituary. If you’d like to share a memory of Judy, please do so below. If you want to honor Judy’s legacy, consider making a donation to Petaluma Education Foundation English Language Learners Scholarship Fund.