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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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