Fairfield County is full of trailblazing women, particularly in the culinary world. Which is why, with 2018 being proclaimed the Year of the Woman, we felt compelled to honor the pioneers among us.
Our new series, “It’s A Woman’s World’ is devoted to Fairfield County female influencers who’ve forged their own paths, often in food-related fields long dominated by men.
Whether farming the land, bringing healthy food to the masses, feeding an entrepreneurial spirit or injecting feminism with food, these groundbreaking ladies have set a new definition of women’s work, creating new paths and setting examples for those who follow.
Lori Cochran, Executive Director, Westport Farmers' Market
Why She’s A Pioneer: She spearheaded and directed the turnaround of the Westport Farmers' Market (WFM). What had been a failing proposition eight years ago has become a formidable town staple with more than 25 vendors and a host of internal and external (educational and outreach) programs. In addition, the former volunteer developed community relations and public relations initiatives, managed event production and achieved 501c-3 status, thus turning the Market into a profitable venture.
Among her proudest achievements: Initiating area chefs to support the farmers. Her commitment to the community runs deep. Other accolades include establishing a fund to help vendors who fall on hard times, encouraging kids to work with local ingredients, creating a weekly partnership with the Bridgeport Rescue Mission and starting programs that support the Gillespie Center and female veterans at Homes for the Brave by providing access to locally sourced food as well as the education on how to prepare it.
On Being A Woman In A ‘Man’s World:’ Cochran, a longtime food advocate who comes from a corporate marketing background, says being a woman has never dictated the way she’s done her job. She admits, however, that what was challenging was earning the respect of the farmers. She credits her success to having a level head and always being strong and reliable in her word. “If I make up my mind I make up my mind,” she says. “I’m not worried about feelings; my concerns are for how this market impacts our community and doing what’s best for the eaters and the growers.”
That said, part of her job often entails standing in a muddy field and later, putting on heels for a board room meeting. Says Cochran: “I’m comfortable doing both.”
What’s Next: Continuing to work on bettering the market while also balancing her consulting career. She’d also like to groom the next “her,” putting people in place and driving the energy to build staff from the ground up. Though she’s not ready to leave her position anytime soon, she says her job is to do what's best for WFM from start to finish.