After traveling the world, a Wauwatosa native and Tosa East graduate is returning to her roots to embrace a sense of community.
Bekah Johnson's travels took her to Mali and South Africa for her studies and later to Senegal with the Peace Corps. When she returned to the states, she spent five years working in refugee resettlement — a job that took her to both Washington D.C. and Wisconsin alike.
Johnson was recently named the new manager of the Tosa Farmers Market and said her travels have helped her value Wauwatosa and where she comes from.
She brings that same perspective to the food she eats, too.
"I've come to prioritize local food over the past couple years," she said. "We've gotten so far away from our food sources over the past couple decades. People are just kind of fed up with not knowing where their food comes from."
One way to help alleviate concerns over food origins is to buy it from local vendors, she said. Johnson added she usually purchases her meat at the Tosa Farmers Market in addition to whatever fresh produce options are in season. For Johnson, the market is a mainstay in her health routine instead of an occasional, fun outing. She hopes to instill that same outlook with market shoppers.
In her role, Johnson will be responsible for overseeing the market's day-to-day operations as well as planning for the future. She took over for Katie Hassemer, who was recruited for a full-time position with the Fondy Food Center, which includes managing the Milwaukee County Winter Farmers Market and the Fondy Farmers Market in Milwaukee. Hassemer has since joined the Tosa Farmers Market board of directors.
Johnson said she has never worked for a farmers market before, but said it should be fairly easy to step into the new role thanks to the leadership already in place.
"It's a really successful market," she said. "The board has done an amazing job."
The farmers market is situated in the Hart's Mill parking lot in the Village of Wauwatosa. The season is scheduled to kick off June 4.
The market will relocate one time during this upcoming season on Sept. 10 to make room for TosaFest, a long-standing street festival. Ongoing construction in the Village has caused space constraints. The market will relocate to the Hart Park Rotary Stage, near 68th and West State Street that day.
Johnson said market organizers will strive to make Sept. 10 full of exciting events as that time of year marks peak season for many produce options.
"Lots of exciting details will be forthcoming," she said.