Peggy McCafferty: Farmers Market mainstay in Woodstock
Early on, in her seven-year tenure as the Woodstock Farmers Market's Volunteer Coordinator, Peggy McCafferty was inspired to make a coffee cake for the volunteers to enjoy during the Sunday morning market setups. Picture a spice cake with crumble topping and caramel glaze, delivered warm from the oven, and it's easy to see why her Farmers Market Coffee Cake was an instant hit. And thanks to Peggy, it became a thing volunteers looked forward to every market morning for seven seasons straight.
The Farmers Market Board, staff, and volunteers stay busy – from May, when they begin preparing for market opening, through November, when they put the market to bed for the year. The market season averages a 22-week run, from the first Sunday in June to the last Sunday in October, plus an encore market on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Do the math: Seven times 22 is 154 coffee cakes to bake – certainly a labor of love!
Peggy readily admits her love for the Market. She jumped in as a volunteer when the Market first began in 2010, helping out on market days and contributing graphics skills to produce promotional posters, flyers, and ads. By the second season, she had snagged the Volunteer Coordinator position – one of the few paid positions with the market, duties for which include managing the token and SNAP-matching program. Although the pay was low and the job part-time and seasonal, Peggy was richly rewarded by becoming an integral part of the community that makes up the weekly market.
She had never coordinated volunteers before, but it didn't take long to figure out what was needed: "Give people a way to be useful. Make sure you're not wasting anyone's time, by learning how many volunteers are actually needed for specific tasks. And make sure you let them know they are appreciated." One secret to Peggy's success as a community organizer is her non-competitive attitude. "Let's make it great for everybody," is how she approaches her work, and her life. "For me," she says, "the most important thing is being honest and kind."
Wanting to make best use of volunteer hours got her thinking about cutting unnecessary, time-consuming tasks. It was her idea to leave the outer covers off the canopies when they were folded down and put away, saving the time it would take to put them on and take them off each week. And when she saw that a big, bulky band shell used to boost music performances was no longer necessary, she made arrangements to donate it to Lewis School, eliminating another time-consuming set-up task.
As token program manager, too, she came up with creative solutions, like using an old silverware tray, "which seemed designed for the purpose", for sorting and storing the wooden tokens.
Peggy's involvement with the Market gave her the opportunity to collaborate with other neighborhood organizations, building goodwill in the community. The best example of this is the Woodstock Hallowe'en tradition in which all the groups planning activities – the Woodstock Farmers Market, the Woodstock Library, the Woodstock Neighborhood Association, and the Woodstock Community Business Association and its members – share advertising, a collaboration that has more often than not benefitted from Peggy's donation of graphic design.Another important aspect of Peggy's community connectedness is her employment with New Seasons Woodstock, where she has worked since the store opened in the fall of 2015. She started as a lead cashier, and two years later landed the "weird magical job" of Community Coordinator at the store.
New Seasons is known for investing in the local community, and the Woodstock store helps out with all kinds of different causes by giving out $300 worth of in-kind or gift-card donations to local organizations each month. So part of Peggy's job is figuring out how to distribute all those giveaways through community channels. Her neighborhood connectedness allows her to make some allocations ahead of being solicited; for example, she was able to reserve a $75 in-kind donation of vegetable starts for the Woodstock Neighborhood Association's annual plant sale coming up on May 11.
Woodstock Farmers Market Changes and Challenges
Her New Seasons job shift was a good one; and this winter, Peggy decided it was time to shift her role in the Farmers Market as well. So when the Market kicks off its ninth season on June 2nd, Peggy will no longer be Volunteer Coordinator and Token/SNAP & Token Program Manager. "My leaving gives someone else the chance to come in with fresh new eyes and an enthusiastic, heat-loving attitude, and shake things up."
And that someone turns out to be Anna Curtin – coincidentally, another employee of New Seasons, who comes with significant farmers-market experience, including at PSU. Anna told THE BEE, "I am excited to apply my Portland-area market experience in this new setting, building on the hard work that Peggy and so many others have invested in making WFM a neighborhood institution. It's an example of what an ideal market can be – a connector of people, businesses, and community at the grassroots level."
WFM Market Manager Emily Murnen affirmed that "Peggy has truly connected the community through her work at the farmers market. People are drawn in by her humor, energy and genuine caring, and . . . she has enabled other people to feel connected to the community and invested in the neighborhood. We are beyond grateful that she has been involved with the market since the beginning, and that she will remain involved."
And indeed, Peggy remains with the Farmers Market – and her new volunteer position is Development Chair. This, of course, means fundraising; and while she doesn't like asking for money, Peggy says for the Market – it's an easy ask. The Market collects stall fees from vendors, but is committed to keeping rates at an affordable level, and a lot more money than that is needed to run the market. The approximately $12,000 that the Market makes up in sponsorships each year helps cover the expenses of garbage, portable toilets, insurance, music, equipment, and part-time seasonal staff.
Additionally, the Market raises a separate pot of money to provide $10 SNAP matching, increasing the purchasing power for neighbors using SNAP EBT cards. SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a federal program that helps struggling households stretch their food budget. Someone with a SNAP card can trade electronic funds for tokens to be spent on fresh fruits and vegetables, and the Market will match the amount they spend up to $10. This also benefits the Market's small local farms, many of which are women-owned.
Fundraising for the 2019 SNAP matching is already well on its way, with several thousand dollars raised, in addition to $400 rolled over from last year. The Market will commence a big fundraising push in May and June, as it gets ready to open.
Nicki Passarella, co-owner of Amica Farm along with Irina Schabram, is one of the Market's newest Board Members. As the first market vendor to have a seat on the board since its founding, Nicki brings valuable insights. The Board feels solid, but is currently at a low ebb, numbers-wise, with only six members – so they are actively seeking a few more, preferring candidates with skills in fundraising, marketing, and social media.
Peggy promises that Board Members are put to work, doing fundraising, planning budgets, and contributing a lot of legwork at the markets, and they are expected to make financial contributions as well. Collectively, their blind donations add up to $1,500 annually. Plus they have the pleasure of working with Community Connector Extraordinaire Peggy McCafferty!