Editor’s note: Petaluma Bounty’s Farmers Market Ambassador Program rolled out in force this spring, with four ambassadors working with FM LIFE markets. Over the next few months, we will feature each ambassador in a series of self-introductory blog posts, starting with Ernan.
Hello, my name is Ernan Ochoa Chavez, and I work at Petaluma Bounty as the farmers market ambassador for the Healdsburg Farmers Market in Sonoma County.
A bit about me
I was born in Marin County and grew up in Sonoma County. I attended the University of California, Davis, where I conducted a qualitative research study as my senior honors thesis that involved interviewing individuals, analyzing the data, and writing a report on my findings. I graduated summa cum laude from Davis with a degree in sociology and a minor in anthropology.
My hobbies include drawing, studying/practicing graphic design, listening to music, thrifting, and watching movies/anime. I also love traveling; if I could travel anywhere in the world right now, it would without a doubt be Japan!
What drew me towards working with Petaluma Bounty as an Ambassador?
I was interested in working with Petaluma Bounty because I wanted to utilize my research and analytical skills at a nonprofit that aims to get involved with and assist the local community. I also wanted to challenge myself to become more social and proactive in the community by taking on a role that involved reaching out to members of the community and actively communicating with different organizations and individuals.
I was particularly drawn to working with farmers and farmers markets because it was an area I was unfamiliar with and I wanted to push myself to learn more about the intricacies of these communities and become involved within them.
Supporting local food systems work
Through my experiences with Petaluma Bounty, I’ve learned that supporting local food and the community is of an understated importance. More specifically, supporting local farmers markets benefits everyone involved, including the farmers/vendors, the customers, and the local community as a whole. Farmers Markets allow space for farmers/vendors to draw in crowds of customers, establish relationships with customers, and promote health and nutrition through their locally grown produce or homemade foods.
The experiences at farmers markets also contrast with those one would have at the grocery store; farmers markets establish much more personal connections between customer and vendor, a more lively/inclusive environment, and the ability to speak with and buy from the individual who grows the food themself. Farmers markets overall are a welcoming space that brings the community together, almost like a festival, with the additional benefits of promoting wellness and health. Since becoming an ambassador, I can definitely say that I will become a regular at farmers markets all around for the long term; I particularly enjoy purchasing fresh baked goods, such as bagels or pastries, but I also love fresh vegetables such as spinach and broccoli.
What do I enjoy about my market, the Healdsburg Farmers Market?
What I enjoy about the Healdsburg Market, and by extension the city of Healdsburg itself, is how unique it is compared to the rest of Sonoma County. Healdsburg is north of Santa Rosa and fairly separated from the more populated parts of the county. Prior to having taken up the role of Ambassador, I was fairly unfamiliar with the community of Healdsburg compared to the communities of Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Sonoma, and Santa Rosa. Although I hesitated to take the role at first because of how relatively alien the community of Healdsburg was to me, I took this opportunity as a challenge to familiarize myself with the community, as well as able to step outside of my bubble and expose myself to unfamiliar populations, locations, and circumstances that would help me learn and grow through experience.
Although it has only been about two months since I started, I have already established lots of connections with wonderful people and organizations around the area, and I am pushing to continue establishing more connections as time progresses. The market itself, which is run by Janet Ciel, is immaculately organized and attracts a very wonderful community of individuals who I have gotten to know over the past several months.
So far, virtually all of my experiences at the market have been positive because the entire community is so welcoming and friendly. Regardless of rain or shine, small turnout, or huge crowd, everyone comes to the market with the intention of purchasing locally grown food. They have a good time throughout the whole experience, and they leave with plenty of produce and the intention of returning again soon.
Looking to the future
While I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with Petaluma Bounty and will continue to do so for several more months, I plan on moving to Oregon in August to work for the AmeriCorps program there. I am grateful for the experiences I’ve had thus far and the wonderful people I’ve connected with. I look forward to the rest of my continued work with Petaluma Bounty and the Healdsburg Farmers Market.