U-Pick, Farmers’ Markets & CSAs: Fresh from the Farm
Farm-to-Table. It’s all the rage–and with good reason.
For starters, local food tastes better! It’s fresh-picked at its peak and delivered to your table in minimal time.
Food that comes from somewhere else has been transported on trucks, trains or planes and stored in warehouses before it finally gets to you–not so fresh any more.
Another compelling reason to eat local: If you want your kids to have fun eating healthy (and what parent doesn’t?), the closer they get to food at its source, the better. Having a garden close at hand is great, but backyard gardens aren’t always practical, or even doable–and you can’t grow everything on a window sill or patio.
The next best thing to having children grow a garden at home is to take them to meet the farmer, either on the farm or across the table at your local Farmers’ Market–where kids can either pick or pick out their very own fruits and vegetables. “Own” is the key. Get your kids invested.
(And no–that’s not the correct spelling of “broccoli” in the photo–but who cares as long as it’s fresh and tasty?!)
U-PICK FARMS: FUN FOR EVERYONE
Association is a powerful thing. If children associate good food with an enjoyable experience, the food is enjoyable too. A family outing to a real farm where kids can pick the food they’ll eat for dinner is an exotic experience for a city kid and great fun for kids who live in smaller towns with farms nearby. Even if it isn’t a regular event, an occasional visit to a farm makes an excellent (and educational!) field trip.
Where I live, in the northwest corner of Washington State, a quick website search reveals 35 U-Pick farms that offer fruits and vegetables galore–A to Z, apples to zucchini. Depending on the time of year, I can find as many foods to harvest myself as I might find at the grocery store, maybe even more. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries abound, as do salad greens and herbs. U-Pick veggies to add to a salad include tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, onions, peppers, leeks, cabbage, cauliflower–and broccoli, of course! Pears, cherries and currants join apples as fresh fruit offerings. Pumpkins, summer squash, corn, peas, beans, potatoes, beets…. The list goes on.
In addition to fruits and vegetables, U-Pick farmers in my area sell honey, walnuts, milk, eggs and even meat produced on their land–enough variety for a complete and delicious home-cooked meal.
FARMERS’ MARKETS: FRESH, LOCAL & IN-SEASON
Not everyone is as lucky as I am to live as close as I do to the family farms that grow veggies for our tables–let alone farms that cater to U-Pick harvesting. But even cities as large as New York and Los Angeles offer neighborhood greenmarkets to help families eat fresh, local produce.
A weekly excursion to the local Farmers’ Market, kids in tow, is more manageable for many families than a field trip to a U-Pick berry or broccoli field. And kids get to see and choose an array of vegetables and other farm goods without the distraction of the sugared-cereal and candy aisles at the local grocery store.
And speaking of grocery stores–your kids might be interested to know that in much of the world, people have never even set foot in one! Many villagers in Europe, Africa, Asia and South America regularly shop for their food the way they have for centuries: in open-air markets just like the one in your town or neighborhood.
CSAs: COMMUNITY SUPPORTED AGRICULTURE
If a field trip to a U-Pick farm or weekly trips to a Farmers’ Market don’t work for your family, you might want to consider CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture. Over the last 25 years, CSAs have become a popular way in many areas for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer.
Here’s how it works: a farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products (honey, nuts and fruit, for example), as well as recipes that used the boxed produce, may be included. Interested families purchase a share, sometimes called a membership or a subscription, and in return receive an allotment of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season, usually delivered to a central location for pick-up.
It’s a win-win-win proposition for farmers, parents and kids. The farmer receives up-front money to support his business. Parents get ultra-fresh produce, with the associated flavor and vitamin benefits, and exposure to foods they might not otherwise purchase and new recipe ideas. Kids develop an increased interest in produce because it’s coming from “their” farm.
According to LocalHarvest, a group that works in support of small family farms, the impact of Community Supported Agriculture has been profound, with more than 4,000 family farms across the U.S. contributing to healthy eating in tens of thousands of homes. See the LocalHarvest website for additional information.
However you choose to do it, connecting kids to the farms and farmers who grow their food is a great way to get them to try new fruits and vegetables–as well as a basketful of fun!
Barbara Jean the Story Queen
First, a disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. I’m not a nutritionist. I’m not a chef. I’m not even a mom. What I know about healthy food and healthy eating I’ve learned by reading and doing, just like you.
What I am is a children’s book author. A Story Queen! My area of expertise is FUN. In the last dozen years, I’ve written a number of entertaining, award-winning picture books–about monsters, cats, Disney princesses–and veggies, of all things.
I’m big on imagination. Monsters Don’t Eat Broccoli encourages kids (the way my dad encouraged my siblings and me) to think of broccoli as crunchy, munchy, fun-to-eat trees. Once Upon a Parsnip is a fairytale rematch between Little Red Riding Hood (a vegetarian) and the Big Bad Wolf (NOT a vegetarian). Scary fun!
On the surface, neither of my veggie books is really about healthy eating–they’re just plain fun. But the fun is subversive: both books introduce and normalize the idea of eating healthy, fresh-from-the-garden vegetables. (Never underestimate the power of fun to get your kids to try something new!)
My goal in these pages is to find and share fun ways to introduce fresh fruits and vegetables to children and to normalize healthy foods and healthy eating in their experience. My means is to expose them–through you, their parents and caregivers–to food-friendly books, videos, downloadable and printable posters and coloring pages, hands-on activities and kid-friendly recipes. Anything that equates healthy food and FUN!
I’m here for you–to help you make healthy eating feel as natural to your children as breathing.
Because healthy food and healthy fun make healthy kids. And that’s something all of us can get behind.
Barbara Jean Hicks, a.k.a. “The Story Queen”
To purchase signed, personalized copies of my picture books, visit the “Books” page on my website. To contact me about my well regarded young author presentations for schools, or for other enquiries, send an email from the “Contact” page at barbarajeanhicks.com. I look forward to hearing from you!