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Things you can teach your kids at the farmers market

Sarah Caron is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and editor. She lives with her wonderful husband, two adorable kids and two funny beagles. Check out her food blog at Sarah's Cucina Bella.

Lessons from farmers

Taking your kids to the farmers market can be a fun outing — but that’s not all. It can also be a fabulous learning experience for them. Here’s how.

When my son was just a baby, I started taking him to the farmers market regularly. It has come with challenges (such as keeping baby safe while shopping), but overall it has been a really great and worthwhile experience.

It has also been an awesome way to sneak lessons in when he wasn't expecting it. The farmer's market is a great place to teach about many, many things. Here are a few lessons your kids can take home.

1. What local food is

Understanding what local food is gives kids a sense of appreciation for their meals, and shopping at a local farmers market can make this concept a little more concrete. "By asking the farmers where their farms are located, they will understand that food is grown local to where they live. As a parent, you can share with them the importance of eating locally-grown foods to financially support the family farm and local community, as well as to reduce environmental impact by purchasing foods that require less gas mileage to get from production to consumption site," says Rachel Begun, MS, a registered dietitian.

2. What goes into making a meal

How does that food get on the table? Eating isn't a matter of microwaving something or boiling it. Food goes from ingredient to recipe to table. And kids can learn more about that process, thanks to a farmers market lesson. "A great way to make a trip to the farmers market a learning experience is by making it a family affair to walk through the farmers market and select ingredients for preparing a meal together," says Begun.

3. What different types of farming mean

There are quite a few adults who don't understand how organic and conventional farming differ, but you and your kids can learn first hand. "If you point out which foods offered are organic, it will spur a conversation about the differences between organic and conventional farming and also turn the conversation to the many different ways farmers treat their crops," says Begun.

4. The seasons of foods

Strawberries in January? That's not natural... and your kids can learn that if you teach them about seasonality. "As kids visit farmer's markets on a regular basis, they will see the availability of certain foods at certain times of year, rather than all foods being available at all times (like in a supermarket). They can ask the farmers questions about why foods grow better at certain times of year (due to weather and growing conditions)," says Begun.

5. How to identify fruits and veggies

I'll never forget seeing an episode of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution show and seeing kids not being able to identify raw veggies. Don't let that happen to your kids. "The simple act of learning the names of all the fruits and vegetables can be very powerful. If you don't know what to call it, how likely is it you will eat it? My kids learned this week at the farmer's market what a turnip looks like, what it's called, where it grows and what it tastes like. Not their favorite, but it's a known veggie now," says Sandra Ann Harris.

6. Tips for your farmers market trip

  • Go early. You'll beat the crowds and snatch up the best-looking produce.
  • Be spontaneous. Sure, you know a few things you have to pick up when you get there, but if your kid eyes a gorgeous basket of peaches, don't say no.
  • Bring bags. Most vendors at farmers markets don't have bags, so be prepared by bringing your own.
  • Carry cash. Some farmers market vendors accept credit cards, but not all of them do. Be prepared with cash for easier transactions.
  • Let your kids pick the best-looking produce. Tell them what you need, and one at a time, let them examine the fruits and veggies and make their selections. It may make your trip take a little bit longer, but it's a great way to teach the kiddos how to make a good pick.
  • Plan your meals from the market. Make that smartphone do some work. Once you've seen the selection the market has to offer, pull up your favorite recipe app and let the kids help you decide what you're going to cook for the next few nights (using the fresh produce from the market, of course).
  • Ask the vendors questions. Chances are, if they grow it, they eat it. If you run into a piece of produce you're not familiar with, ask the vendor what it tastes like and how they like to prepare it.
  • Shop around. If you're at a farmers market with a lot of vendors, don't snatch up the first pretty red tomatoes you see. Look around for the best prices and selection before you pull out your wallet.
  • Try something new. Chances are, there's plenty at the farmers market you haven't tried. Try to select something new every time you go.

More on healthy eating and kids

Garden tips for families
How to plant a family pallet garden
Get your kids off the couch and outdoors this summer


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