More and more often when you ask an urban child where that crunchy carrot came from, they’ll respond that it came from the grocery store. And that egg, well, it came from an egg carton. Many kids have no connection to where their food comes from before it hits the retail shelf. That’s why it’s our responsibility to show the younger generation that many of their favorite foods in fact came from the garden, the farm, the sea, or from animal production. Here are some tips for reintroducing kids to their food’s origin:
Visit local family farms.
If you look in the right places, you’ll find ample opportunity to visit small, local farms (Google your city name and “local farms”). In season, many farms allow you to come pick your own produce like strawberries, blueberries and tomatoes. In October, you can head to the pumpkin patch to show your little ones how pumpkins grow and discover unique heirloom varieties that you may not see at your local store. Or visit an apple orchard for fresh pressed cider and caramel apples in the fall.
Hit the farmer’s market.
The farmer’s market is the perfect activity for the kids. It’s entertaining and educational. Introduce your kids to the farmers and ask them a few questions. Ask the farmers how their vegetables are grown, do they use synthetic pesticides, or how do they control common pests? Or what’s currently in season? And if you are buying meat, ask them how the animals were raised. What did they eat, did they eat their natural diet? Did the animal live a happy, normal life outdoors? Many farmers will even show you pictures of their farm! You might also want to point out to your child what these farmers don’t use in their food production like synthetic pesticides on fruits and vegetable or hormones and antibiotics to raise the animals for meat. And share the dangers that these food additives pose to human and planet health.
Just by introducing your kids to the local farmers, they’ll get a first person lesson in food production. It will also underscore the importance of knowing where your food comes from and how it is grown, rather than just blindly shopping at a grocery store.
Make your own pantry staples.
Teaching kids about how foods are made is as easy as making them yourself. Making your own bread with the kids is a fun hands-on activity and an easy way to get them involved. Homemade cheese and butter are other great options. And after you put in the work, you’ll get to enjoy the food, which shows your kids early on that these foods take effort and shouldn’t be eaten mindlessly. Instead, that slice of just baked bread with homemade butter should be a cherished experience rather than just a meal.
Join a community garden.
More and more community gardens are popping up in neighborhoods and they’re a great way to teach your kids about gardening. This is especially helpful if you don’t have a green thumb and you need a little help from your community. Community gardens also bring the neighborhood together. When it’s time to harvest that batch of summer squash or that bumper crop of green beans, you can come up with fun recipes that involve the kids.
Keep a chicken coop.
I can’t think of anything better than cracking a fresh, local egg and seeing that bright orange yoke within. Local eggs aren’t just pretty, they’re much tastier and healthier for you and for many urban dwellers, they’re the only farm animal that’s a real option. While a chicken coop is a lot of work, it’s doable even for those that never thought themselves a farmer. Your kids can help feed the chickens and even clean the coop!
Grow a kitchen herb garden.
Fresh herbs don’t come from wasteful plastic containers at the grocery store. In fact, fresh herbs are an easy addition to your lifestyle, even if you’re the furthest thing from a gardener. Growing a kitchen garden is a fun project for your little ones. Clean out a discarded egg carton and then rip off the top. Add a few spoonfuls of top soil with a number of herb seeds. As your child’s kitchen garden grows, you can transplant them into larger containers. And every time you need fresh herbs for a recipe, your little one gets to tear off the requested amount. This simple act will also save you money at the grocery store check out.
Can with the kids.
Even canned foods don’t have to come from the grocery store. In fact, your family can learn to can. Whether those heirloom tomatoes come from the backyard, your local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture farm), or a neighborhood garden, canning is a great way to show the kids how to use and preserve an over abundance of food throughout the year. Pickling cucumbers is another easy way to show your kids that pickles are actually made from cucumbers. You can also pickle okra, carrots, beets, onions (my favorite) and any number of tasty vegetables that come from the garden.
Choosing a few of the ideas above can help you introduce your little ones to the source of their food that’s beyond the grocery store.