The summer season is upon us which means farmers markets are starting to open up! Taking a trip to your local Farmers Market is a perfect way to support a healthy food system, celebrate healthy eating, and expand children’s palates and skills. Not only will your kids get to support the work of farmers in your community, they’ll learn where food comes from and what grows in your area. Here are a handful of fun ways to make the most of your market trips with kids.
- Discover New Foods. You’ll find plenty of green beans, lettuce, and tomatoes at most markets (in season, of course), but you’ll also find items you may not have enjoyed yet. Don’t get intimidated by unusual vegetables. Ask questions: What is that? What does it taste like? How would you cook it? Choose something new to take home!
- Seek Out a Rainbow. We know that eating a variety of different color vegetables and fruits is good for our health. See if you can find and buy a full rainbow. This may be easier in some seasons than in others, but by looking around you will discover foods in colors you never expected: black radishes, green tomatoes, purple carrots, yellow watermelons, blue potatoes… if you don’t try new food, try a familiar food in a new color.
- Get Growing. If you want to grow your own garden, farmers markets often have seedlings to get started. Ask vendors for advice on planting and growing the plants you are choosing.
- Notice what’s in Season. With food shipped all over the country, we get used to having every kind of food available to us at any time. When we buy foods in season, we are more closely connected to local changes. And when we have to wait for food, we appreciated it more.
- Connect! Some people catch up with friends and neighbors at their weekly farmers market. Parents chat, while kids run around together. Families make plans for dinner with ingredients in hand. You can also connect with the vendors and learn about their farming or production practices.
- Have a Scavenger Hunt. Give your kids a list of things to look for while you shop Think a red fruit, a green vegetable, the biggest vegetable, the smallest one, a fungus, an animal product. Remind them to be aware of other shoppers and to point out items rather than grab them, unless you plan to buy all the items on your list.
- What Part of the Plant? The fruits and vegetables we eat make up many different plant parts. For example, we eat the seeds of peas, the roots of carrots, the leaves of lettuce, the stem of celery, the flowers of broccoli, and the fruit (along with the seeds they contain) of cucumber. See how many difference parts of plants you can find on sale. How many different plant parts do you like to eat?
- Make a Meal. Going to the farmers market with a list of specific ingredients can be an exercise in frustration. Maybe the peaches aren’t ripe yet or they sold out of spinach. Instead, try going with a looser list: salad, fruit. Go with the intention of creating a meal. Start with whatever catches your eye and riff on that. See how many items for your meal you can get from the farmers market and supplement at home. Two ways to use almost anything you find: make pizza and top it with market veggies or use veggies and eggs from the market to make an omelet.
Find a farmers market that is convenient in location and time and make a family date to check it out. And then go back. Some of the magic is in revisiting. As you get to know the people and learn more about cycles of food and new ideas, the farmers market becomes more than just a place to grab something for dinner. It’s a connection to local food and community. Join in!