Shopping at your local farmer’s market can help teach kids not only the benefits of patronizing local farms but it can also help children understand the many nutritional benefits which come from purchasing organic foods. Many parents and independent studies tout the health benefits of eating organic but how does a parent impart this wisdom to children? Actually there are many practical ways a parent can positively impact a child’s outlook on food.
Farmer’s markets are located in just about any city, large or small. Take your kids with you on a Saturday to shop for fresh produce. Ask the farmers questions about how the food is grown, what pesticides (if any) are used and start a conversation.
Your kids are naturally curious and will ask their own questions based upon their experiences. If they are used to store-bought vegetables they may ask why don’t these vegetables come in cans or bags? Why aren’t they frozen?
The farmer can explain that they were just picked this past week or other tidbits which will get your kids interested in the process of growing food. The more your children take an interest in their food the more eating healthy will be important to them later on in life.
You can find a directory of farmer’s markets on the USDA website. As of August 2010 they number 6,132 nationwide.
Visiting a local farm can help increase your child’s interest in their foods. Many organic farms are listed on the Local Harvest website. Local Harvest is a coalition of small farms, farmer’s markets, and local food sources in all 50 states and in Canada.
Finding a farm in the directory with a phone number is a great way to get in touch with a local grower. Some farms you can visit directly and purchase foods right on the property. Asking questions of your local grower will again yield many answers for you and your children.
Children love animals. Seeing chickens, cows, pigs, and other livestock your kids’ curiosity will be piqued even more by the eating and growing process of eggs and meat. Seeing rows of corn and other crops will get them interested in fresh foods and how they are grown.
Be careful–it will be up to you as a parent as to when your child should learn the lesson about where meat comes from regarding live animals. My wife and I did not tell our kids about where meat comes from specifically until about age seven or eight. Until then, children may be sensitive about cute cuddly animals and their fate on the dinner table.
Having your kids learn about where food comes from makes them more cognizant about the resources needed to raise food and bring it to market. Other valuable lessons include how supermarkets get their food as compared to buying from a local farm.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, “Agricultural Marketing Service”, USDA.gov.
Local Harvest, “Farmer’s Markets–Local Farms–CSA–Organic Food”, LocalHarvest.org.