Sara Craig-Goodell has a thing for food. She’s quick to say so.
“Yes, I do like food,” she says with a grin. “I like eating it. I like learning about it. … How can you not care about food? I spend most of my day waiting for get hungry again so I can eat.”
Her fondness for good food comes naturally. She remembers visiting her grandparent’s home and orchard in rural Mexico, where she dined on fresh avocados and pecan, limes and figs, persimmons and nectarines. “I’ve just always been a big eater,” she said. “I like to try new things.
She likes to cook, too. “I’m an enthusiastic cook,” she said. “I like making food that tastes good, usually so I can eat it. Not for other people. I mostly want to make food I can eat.”
She remembers the first meal she ever prepared for herself. She was about 8, she said, and wanted eggs, so she got out a pan and scrambled some.
She’s been cooking since. Now she favors pasta or tacos made with whatever’s in season. At home, she said, “the kitchen is my space.”
Her taste for fresh food was part the reason the slim, energetic 34-year-old was hustling around the parking lot behind the Cathedral of St. Philip in Buckhead one recent Saturday morning. The lot is the home of the foodie haven that is the Peachtree Road Farmers Market, one of the larger open-air markets in a metro area now brimming with such Saturday morning food sales. Since March of 2018, Craig-Goodell has run the place as the market’s executive director.
One recent Saturday, she was doing what executive directors do: walking around the market to check in with vendors; finding a generator and power cord for the blender to be used in a cooking demonstration; making chalkboard signs for special events; introducing a visiting chef; generally keeping an eye on things. She’s been known to rack up five or six miles on her Fitbit just hustling around doing errands on market mornings, she said. “You get a lot of steps,” she said.
Later, once the market wound down and the vendors prepared to pack up their tents, she would go shopping herself. “I cook with an eye for whatever I see at the farmers market that looks good,” she said. “I do all my menu planning the morning of.”
During the week, she works with vendors and to find ways to keep the market relevant in a time when customers have lots of other options for finding fresh veggies. After all, she says, customers can have food delivered to their homes now from groceries or online marketers.
That’s where Craig-Goodell’s degree training in psychology comes in handy, she said. “A lot of [my job] has to do with [customers’] perception, and with doing research,” she said.
The path to her job at the market hasn’t exactly been a straight line. In fact, it wasn’t even her affinity for food that brought her from her home in Texas to metro Atlanta. It was Georgia Tech, which she attended with plans to major in biomedical engineering. But, in a story typical of Tech students, she ran into Calculus 3 and other courses she needed for engineering, “so I changed my major to psychology.” Then, “I graduated into the 2008 depression,” she said, so she ended up working at lots of jobs.
Looking for work led her back to food. She did a stint as the cook at a private school. She baked cupcakes at a shop in Buckhead. She went back to school, this time to culinary school. She proofread pages for a cooking magazine.
She worked as assistant director at the farmers market before she was promoted to executive director. She said her job at the market allows her to promote good, fresh food for others, as well as herself. “It’s one way of … creating a sustainable environment,” she said. “It’s one way to give back.
“I do personally prefer to eat food that’s been produced ethically and sustainably,” she said. “You vote with your fork. I’d like to send my money on food that’s been produced in ways that don’t make me feel sad.”
Besides, the Farmers Market is where the fresh food is. “I’d probably be at the farmers market anyway on a Saturday morning,” she said. “I might as well get paid for it.”