Erin Tormey

Farmers Market organizer Erin Tormey is this year's Farmer of the Year. Jamie Soja / Review

Tormey harvests honor

Cozzolino, Dexter, 

HEAL Project awarded at 

luncheon

By Carina Woudenberg

Longtime Coastsider Erin Tormey was named the Farmer of the Year on Friday during the 48th annual Mel Mello Farm Day Luncheon, held at the I.D.E.S. Hall in Half Moon Bay.

Among many community achievements, Tormey organized the Coastside farmers markets in Pacifica and Half Moon Bay. Many of those in the sold-out audience owe business opportunities to Tormey, who got the farmers markets off the ground and continues to manage the markets.

She has been integral to efforts to provide local produce to Coastsiders, help farmers make a living and even bring fresh foods to low-income residents through the CalFresh program.

In announcing Tormey as this year’s honored farmer, John Muller — owner of Farmer John’s Pumpkin Farm — highlighted Tormey’s dedication to the farmers markets as well her commitment to her own “Farm Fatales,” where she is raising chickens. 

Muller also spoke of Tormey’s warm demeanor. 

“That hug of hers is so important to us,” Muller said. “I always tell her it’s better than a latte at Peet’s.” 

Other people who nurture community were recognized at the event as well. 

Amy Bono-Kruckewitt, executive director of the HEAL Project, received the Innovative Award for the nonprofit’s work with young students.

The nonprofit got its start at Hatch Elementary School and has since grown to include a variety of educational opportunities for children across San Mateo County.

In conjunction with the San Mateo County Health System, the HEAL Project operates the San Mateo County School Farm on the Coastside where children learn about planting and harvesting.

“For a lot of kids it’s the first time they see carrots pulled out of the ground,” said the farm’s manager, Jon Glancy, during the award presentation. “It doesn’t just come from a shelf at the grocery store.”

Donna Dexter took home the Glenn Ashcraft Chamber Community Service Award. A lifelong Coastsider, Dexter has involved herself in the community in a variety of ways. The recently retired dental assistant has worked extensively with the Half Moon Bay Beautification Committee and taken on maintenance work at Kitty Fernandez Park.

The Dolores Mullin “Like a Rock” award was given to Linda Cozzolino, who was described by Farm Day Committee member Cameron Palmer as a “stalwart volunteer” in the community. Cozzolino was raised in Half Moon Bay and served as both “little queen” and “big queen” at the I.D.E.S. Society’s annual Holy Ghost festivals. She has worked at the family’s Christmas Farm and served as a Girl Scout leader, among other activities.

Cozzolino also happened to help with the food preparation for the day’s event and was described by Half Moon Bay Mayor Debbie Ruddock as “totally foxy.” 

Farm Day was started in 1969 by farmer and former Half Moon Bay Mayor and City Councilman Mel Mello Sr. 

Because of all the challenges involved with regulations, zoning laws, pesticides and the like, Mello had a desire to bring farmers and politicians together at the same table “to understand each other’s plights,” said Palmer. 

“It’s with that tradition we keep Farm Day alive all these 48 years later,” Palmer said. 

The attendees at the event piled their plates high with an assortment of tasty offerings including barbecued tri-tip, fish, Brussels sprouts and potatoes, among other things. 

One thing that was missing from this year’s table were the artichokes.

“Don’t get mad at us, get mad at Mother Nature,” Palmer told the audience, acknowledging all the rain that had wiped out the artichoke crops. 

Upon receiving her award, Tormey told the audience that she was surprised to be honored. 

“This is not what I expected,” she said. In accepting her award Tormey named Dee Harley — 2007’s Farmer of the Year — as her hero, and acknowledged the community of people who have helped her succeed. 

“I can’t imagine any other place in the world where I could have pulled this off,” Tormey said. 

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