A trip to the farmers’ market is a great way to get children interested in new foods, learning about where they come from, and choosing fresh produce over chips.
There are many sellers of produce beside farmers. These include beekeepers selling honey, ranchers raising chickens, beef, and pigs, fishermen, and women selling their catch, and bakers selling breads, pies, and muffins.
A farmers market is a place where you can shop seasonally. This makes us more conscious of sustainability. It is cool for children to see that strawberries are available in May and June in most parts of the country, while plums and peaches are available in midsummer. Fall will be here once the apples start rolling in. It makes us all appreciate the present. Because corn is scarce, a fresh ear of corn tastes sweeter in August.
Melissa Kubin brings her baby son Felix to New Milford’s farmers market since he was born. She says, “Now he runs up to the car on Saturdays shouting “farmers market!”
Felix’s biggest attraction is the Green Granary bakery stand and the dogs. His favorite vegetable is carrots.
Amy Iannillo regularly brings her four daughters, aged 1-7, to the farmers’ market. They also enjoy pastries, so they set up a small picnic area with folding chairs. But they love fresh produce.
Iannillo says, “They eat things I don’t normally eat because it is being introduced to them in a different environment and on their terms.” For now, it’s all about strawberries. Ianillo said that the girls are beginning to appreciate the short season. They also enjoy eating as many strawberries as they can.
Farmers markets can also create a sense community because they support local farmers and producers.
Parents, get out your wallet and some reusable bags. These are eight ways to engage your children at the farmers’ market.
1) Ask three questions to the producers/farmers. You will likely have questions as you go through the market. What is the average number of eggs a chicken lays each day? What is the difference between organic and non-organic vegetables? What does it mean to be grass-fed? What makes different corn colors different?
2) Be hungry Enjoy as many mouth-watering tastes as possible. As different markets adjust to changing COVID rules, tasting might be less limited this summer. Most producers will happily give you a piece of plum, some cheese or homemade jam on a cracker if you ask. It is a great way to teach children how to politely ask for something and to show appreciation for their efforts.
3) Take home one new fruit or vegetable and learn how to use it. You might find watermelon radishes, golden berries or dandelion leaves. You can either eat your find plain or add it to a pasta dish, pie, salad or other recipe. The ostrich egg was our best find as a child. It is a huge egg with the equivalent of 24 chicken eggs. We were able to remove the egg from the shell without damaging it. We also made lots of scrambled eggs, using wild leeks, which were also available in our area. As a souvenir of an exciting farmers market trip, we were able keep the egg shell from ostriches on our fireplace mantle for many years.
4) Choose a new cheese. For grilled cheese sandwiches, mix a milder cheese with one that has been approved by your children. You might be able to bring home a Wisconsin cheddar cheese, a Wisconsin sharp cheese, a California triple cream, or an Oregon blue cheese.
5) Learn more about farm-raised eggs. Take the eggs home and compare them with the supermarket eggs. You might also ask the farmer what their chickens eat and how it affects the color of the yolks.
6) Ask the farmer for a recipe. The people who produce these products are the best at describing how to use them. Most likely, you’ll find the “recipe” that you receive is simple. It allows the produce and other ingredients to shine without too much decoration.
7) You can create a scavenger hunting: This can be planned in advance or left to develop naturally. You might search for: How many different types of red vegetables are there? What number of different types of apples can you count? What are the different colors of eggs? Can you spot any speckled eggs? Which is the largest melon that you can find?
8) Look for the oddest names. Children love to be called silly names, so you might see Donut Peaches with Donut Stripes, Cathead Apples and Russian Banana Potatoes.
Your kids may become fast friends with the seller of the apple cinnamon doughnuts after a few visits to the market. Make sure to grab a glass of cider to wash it down.