Celebrate the culture of agriculture & share skills (Growing! Cooking! Eating!)

Young & Green: Katia on Seasonal Eating and Fresh Herb Popsicles

You’re reading Young & Green, the group blog written by participants of GrowNYC’s Youthmarket. This network of urban farm stands is operated by neighborhood youth, supplied by local farmers, and supplies communities throughout NYC with fresh fruits and veggies. Pretty cool, huh?

THIS WEEK’S MARKET SUPERSTAR: Katia Johnstone, age 24

Katia worked for the Learn It Grow It Eat It Youthmarket for one full season during the summer of 2013. There were 15 young people who worked at the market that summer, but Katia worked mostly with her group of 5 students, leading them at the market and throughout the week at different community gardens. At the market each week, the group of students rotated between selling produce, running the nutrition education table, and doing cooking demonstrations.

"It was incredible to see the students go from feeling uncomfortable talking to strangers and unsure of their skills to leading the way - suggesting new ideas on what to cook, new ways to introduce nutrition education to the community, and setting up the market with very little assistance. I distinctly remember one young woman I worked with at the beginning of the program who felt she was in no position to educate others on eating healthy, but by the 6th or 7th week of the market went straight up to a visiting school group and walked them through our entire nutrition presentation. I loved seeing the students grow, both in terms of their knowledge around healthy lifestyles and in their mastery of public speaking, customer service, teamwork, and much more."


Has the market changed what you eat? In what ways?

Yes, the market has certainly changed the way I eat – I was always a big fan of eating lots of fruits and vegetables, but since working at the market I have become a lot more aware of what it means to eat seasonally. Now I try to make sure to incorporate more seasonal foods into my meals.

Do you cook at home? If so, what’s your favorite easy meal to make?

I do! I love to cook. One of my favorite meals to cook is soba noodles with veggies and a peanut sauce. It takes about 30 to 45 minutes depending on how many people you are making it for. All you do is cook the soba noodles, chop and sauté the vegetables (one could easily add chicken into this sauté), mix ingredients together for a peanut sauce (peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey, sesame oil) and then throw it all together for a delicious meal!


Do you cook for your family members? If so, for whom? How often?

I do, when I am home. My family lives in California, so when I'm home I usually cook with my sister for my family – we’ll make at least one or two meals if were home for a couple days. We usually make sure to cook a meal that has vegetables, protein, and a carbohydrate.


What do they think about your cooking?

As far as I know they like it! I think the trick is to use fresh produce and not to be shy with spices and herbs.

What’s the funniest or the most interesting thing you’ve overheard at the market?

Oh, it has been a while so I don’t really remember! There were many funny things that happened at the markets. I remember that a lot of the funny things I overheard usually had to do with young kids trying new vegetables and fruits and being unsure of what to think.  


Has the market affected your future job plans? How?

I really enjoyed working at the market, and it made me realize how much I love to work outside. I have always loved working with young people but the market made realize that it is possible to bring together my love of the outdoors, food, community, and working with young people.


Or school plans? How?

I would love to get more formal education now on nutrition and health education!


What have you learned about dealing with nasty weather (super hot or cold or rainy or windy)?

I learned that it is best to always be prepared. It is always best to bring an extra sweater if it is going to be cold or bring a hat if it is going to be hot – I never regretted bringing extra things to be prepared, I only regretted when I didn’t bring something. It also reinforced with me the very true reality that all experiences are temporary – when I was outside on a cold November day I would remind myself that the cold is not forever, it’s just for the next couple of hours. That helped me remain positive.


What about dealing with tough customers?

I’ve learned that you can always deescalate a situation by remaining calm and listening to the customer. I try to always remind myself that I have no idea what is going on in customers’ lives. If a customer is causing me distress I remind myself that maybe they just had a really hard morning and it’s not about me or anything I did.  


What’s the most important question you think customers at the market should ask?

I think they should ask about how to cook new things! I saw many customers at the market turn away from produce that they weren’t familiar with – the people that GrowNYC hires, however, are very knowledgeable, and the customers should pick their brains!


What’s your favorite fruit or veggie that you tried for the first time while working at the market?

I tried mini Bartlett pears for the first time at the market and I loved them – they’re a great snack.


What’s one you’re not crazy about?

I don’t really like radishes. I’ve tried them many a time but they’re always too spicy for me.


What advice would you give someone who’s thinking about working for Youthmarket?

I would tell them that they should work for Youthmarket because it is a great experience. They are going to learn a lot and should be open to that learning. I would also tell them to remember to try new things and share their knowledge with their peers, customers, and community members.


Do you have any hobbies?

I have many hobbies – I like to run, bike, swim, hike, picnic, cook, stargaze, draw, write, garden, and listen to music. I have a small herb garden growing on my fire escape this summer, and I love making popsicles with fresh herbs like mint and chamomile.


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