Petaluma Bounty has a new team member who fills a unique role of two combined positions. Maria Wnorowski comes with a “dirty” mind in both agriculture and science (she loves dirt!), topped with a passion for education. It’s almost like this role was tailor-made for her. She fills the role of Education and Engagement Coordinator to handle volunteer coordination and community outreach; and Farmers Market Ambassador Coordinator, which is a brand new, exciting position for us. Read her blog post below to get to know her. Say say hi to her at the farm, at an FM L.I.F.E. farmers market when she visits, and in the community.
A passion for sustainable food systems
Hello Petaluma Bounty community!
I am Maria, the new Education and Engagement Coordinator and Farmers’ Market Ambassador Coordinator at Petaluma Bounty. I am excited to be here, learning from the Bounty Community Farm and using my skills to further the mission of making local food accessible to everyone!
My passion for sustainable food systems is rooted in Southwest Virginia where I grew up. I spent my childhood on a few acres of land surrounded by Angus beef cows. I was an active member of 4-H and Future Farmers of America where incredible teachers, mentors, and friends fostered a love for learning while encouraging me to explore everything from dairy judging, to horseback riding, to floral design.
Funky twists and turns
As my stem began to grow and I began college at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville (Wahoowa!!), I envisioned myself studying biology to pursue a degree in veterinary medicine. But, as any farmer knows, stems sometimes can take on some funky twists and turns.
Two experiences challenged my plan and prompted me to start looking deeper at what interested me. The first was partnership work with a community in Saltadere, Haiti, where I was able to explore international trade and farming. The second was an internship with a student-run university CSA garden where I, alongside a few other interns, were fully in-charge of the production and management of the farm.
Each experience challenged me to dive into my passions and beliefs; every time I went to the grocery store, I questioned where products came from and grew frustrated at times with the lack of transparency or information available to answer these questions.
From teaching to learning and doing
When it came time for graduation, I knew I didn’t want to commit to veterinary school. But I wasn’t sure if I was ready to jump into food systems work quite yet. I ended up joining a program called the Alliance for Catholic Education and working as a high school science teacher in Peoria, IL. As I led the students in the exploration of chemistry and how it relates to the world around them, I found myself bringing in agriculture and food systems whenever possible — whether it be how the carbon cycle affects global warming to the overuse of nitrate fertilizers.
In my personal life, I became a regular at the Saturday morning farmers market and local grocery stores. Some of my proudest moments from those days involved cooking meals using exclusively local or fair trade ingredients.
After spending three years in Peoria, I decided to move to Sonoma County to be closer to my partner. I spent two more years working as a high school teacher, loving every moment of teaching students how science in the classroom directly connects to the dynamic world around them.
Volunteering leads to a new path
In the fall of 2021, I started volunteering with Petaluma Bounty as a way to spend time outside and in the dirt. I loved the mission and the work Bounty was doing and volunteering quickly became the highlight of my week.
This past spring, when I saw the Bounty’s job opening for a combined position of Education and Engagement and Farmers’ Market Ambassador Coordinator, I knew I had to apply. And it has felt like such a gift to be here! I love teaching people from all walks of life about the microbiome of the soil and the beautiful, intricate life tied within it. I love connecting with companies and organizations looking to serve the community and providing them a space to spend time outside as they support Petaluma Bounty. I love sharing my love for farmers markets and the incredible tools they are both in combating global warming and building up resilient communities. And I love that I get to be a lifelong learner from the incredible people I get to work with on the farm, at the markets, and all over the community.
Horseback riding, hiking, sewing, and more hobbies
If I’m not at the farm, you’ll catch me most likely hiking, doing yoga, camping, grocery shopping, or horseback riding (hopefully soon — I’m trying to find a barn!) I’m working on learning how to sew and kayak, so if you have suggestions of designs or places, let me know! I love trying new things and meeting new people. I am so grateful to be here!