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Hello, Happy Mama: April Verhoef on Health, Faith, & Love


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April helping a customer at the F Street Farmers Market

Photography by Stacey Leigh Photography


 


April Verhoef is a teacher by trade but also someone who is always learning. Her gentle way of being makes for easy conversation. She has taught music part-time in public schools for more than 30 years. Many Kern County residents may also know her as market manager for F Street Farmers Market, where she talks with passersby in her kind way about good health and better nutrition.


“You know, throughout the past year, I have noticed a lot of single people or people who just need to talk with someone,” said April. “Sometimes, they stop by my booth and we talk and then they say, ‘It was really nice just talking to you. I guess I just needed to talk with someone.’ They may not buy anything, and that is okay. I think sometimes they might need to realize there are other people, and we all just have that need.”

April’s social nature comes through in all that she does.

“I love people and being around people and helping people out,” she said. “I love teaching; teaching kids how to make something or do something or put something together. At the farmers market, I can share health information or how to cook something. I want people to be healthy and have a positive outlook.”

Her sunny perspective is undoubtedly an asset in her day job: teaching children in kindergarten through eighth grade at rural schools and in some private lessons. She will teach two days per week, one at McKittrick Elementary and one at Maple Elementary, outside of Shafter. COVID interrupted her plans, including preschool instruction, and led her to be furloughed last year, but she looks forward to trying again for the 2021-2022 school year.

April holds a degree in music from California State University, Long Beach. Her main instrument is the piano, but she teaches a little bit of everything: voice, guitar, violin, xylophone, and folk dancing.

“Folk dancing is great, because it teaches them patterns,” she explained. “It’s like square dancing, but it's done in lines, so they have to learn how to work in pairs. Sometimes, it’s pretty chaotic and sometimes pretty organized.”

In calm tones, she recalled always wanting to be a teacher and beginning piano lessons at age 6, facts that came together for her life plan.

“My Mom was a singer. I always played for her, and our family sang together. It started with playing piano at church, but my Mom always needed someone to accompany her,” she said.

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April Verhoef
“It was a challenge. I didn't want other people to play for her. I wanted to play for her. Later, our church needed an organist, so my parents paid for lessons. and I became the organist. I can sight read anything.”

Originally from South Dakota, April’s father moved to California with the U.S. Navy but continued to send April home to the family farm three months out of the year so she would develop the work ethic that characterizes her life.

“Cows and pigs aren't going to be fed unless you get out there and do it. On a farm, you just don’t have a choice about not sitting around,” she said. “I learned a lot from my grandmother. We picked chokecherries, wild plums, and crabapples. I’ve been making jams and jellies for over 40 years.”

April passed along key skills to her children, who know how to can, sew and cook. She has also taught eighth grade life skills classes, often called “home economics,” and helped with 4-H when her children were young. She and her husband now raise chickens, goats and pigs on two-and-a-half acres east of Highway 43, while her son lives nearby with sheep, chickens, and geese. They have lived in Bakersfield for more than 20 years and love their friendly community of neighbors.

As for future plans, April says she takes life one day at a time, especially as COVID-19 was so disruptive to teachers last year.

“There really wasn't time to teach music properly,” she said. “Reading and writing took precedent, so I basically put it all on hold… Sometimes, I do think about retiring, but when you do something you haven’t done in a long time, you remember how much you love it and, with teaching, how much you love the kids.”

Functional medicine is also an interest for April, in part because she has celiac disease, a diagnosis 19 years in the making. She pays attention to her family’s diet and vitamin intake, and will be glad to talk about health and nutrition with anyone who asks.

April takes comfort in the Bible and welcomes others who come up to her with verses to share. Fellow Kern County residents know they can find her at F Street Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. Whether you need food, conversation, or music, life’s joys shine through her person, sure as the sun rises on a Saturday morning.


 





Food, Family and the F Street Farmers Market:

April Verhoef Shares How Farmers Markets Help Bridge the Nutrition Gap

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Community comes to life each Saturday morning on F Street at Kern County’s longest-running farmers market. Residents know they can count on F Street Farmers Market for access to fresh, quality produce and more.

April Verhoef, market manager, is proud of the role of F Street Farmers Market in bringing together both local vendors and customers. She has been involved with the effort since 2007 and has served in her current role for the past two years.

“I am always looking to include a variety of items, but the market is more quality than quantity,” said April. “I want my vendors to be successful and for shopping to be a positive experience for both vendor and shopper. Whatever they provide, I want it to be a quality product.”

Currently, the variety of products at F Street Farmers Market includes fruits and vegetables, flowers, honey, eggs, barbecue and bakery products, soaps made from natural products, dog treats and a beloved vendor with a variety of other items.

“Lois has reinvented herself so many times,” said April, speaking of a familiar figure she admires. “She hand paints on glass crystal, and I have no idea how she does it. Lois sells jewelry, she sells fish water [for houseplants] and compost.”

F Street Farmers Market has served Kern County for more than three decades. The open air experience of a farmers market can bring together friends and neighbors as families meet on both sides of the table. Unifying qualities inherent to community life like food and family have a way of meeting in similar settings throughout the country, with tangible benefits, with healthy food and a more personable experience.

“Farmers markets provide a healthy alternative to what consumers might otherwise buy. They are a good alternative to junk food you might find at the supermarket and give people a way to buy healthy food, especially since we accept EBT and SNAP benefits,” said April. “With our farmers and vendors, they're not big businesses. They are hardworking families. For some, this is their only income and for others, it's a supplemental income to help provide for their family.”

April first got involved with F Street Farmers Market in 2007 to help further her daughter and sons’ related interests. More than just a pastime, involvement in 4-H and FFA inspired careers for two of the Verhoef Family’s three children.  

April accepts applications for prospective vendors, interested makers, sellers and agricultural producers who have unique products to offer. As a certified farmers market, agricultural producers present undergo an additional application process that the Kern County Department of Agriculture oversees as extensions of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

“What they sell is what they grow,” said April. “The Ag Department checks on it, with visits to their operations, and anytime they add a product, they have to get recertified. What’s on your table has to match what’s on your list.”

Inspections of the market overall also take place and non-certified vendors must also have permits. Vendors also need a tent, table, certified scale and insurance, in addition to other state requirements. Interested applicants can pick up an application at the market or reach out via Facebook for more information to begin the process. Approved vendors turn over 7% of the day’s sales but there is no flat fee or minimum required.

The F Street Farmers Market is open every Saturday, year round, from 7:45 a.m. to noon.

A recent grant made possible by The Ecology Center and in partnership with Communication Action Partnership of Kern (CAPK) actually increases EBT and SNAP participant benefits by giving every recipient an additional $10 to spend at the market. An EBT booth on-site offers wooden coins as a form of currency to be spent at individual vendor booths.

Tents are spaced with three to four feet between each booth space, with sunshine and optimal conditions for social distancing. Mask use is up to the individual.

April provides a consistent and joyful presence at F Street Farmers Market, where all life’s colors come together for happy Saturday mornings filled with new sights and tastes for family memories.

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