With summer is in full swing, once a week we head to Fishkill Farms and pickup our CSA (Consumer Supported Agriculture) pre picked and pick your own fruits and vegetables. Then we take our bounty home to process and prep our meals for the week. A true farm to table experience. The process of farm to table does take a bit of work, there is nothing precut or washed but it is extremely rewarding to know I am feeding my children the best food I can. I believe it gives them a head start in life to know where their food comes from and to know how to prep it. Eventually they will be able to cook it themselves.
Let’s start with getting your food, if you don’t live where you can buy a share in a farm there are other ways to get the farm to table experience with your child.
Grow Your Own Garden
You don’t have to go crazy and plant lots of different vegetables. Start with a goal three different foods your house will consume and that are easy to grow in the ground or in a pot. I would plant cherry tomatoes, kids love to pop these into their mouth directly from the plant. Last year my son would only eat tomatoes when he picked them himself but refused to eat them any other time. Another option is a bean bus. It is really easy to grow and kids love to pick the beans off the bush. The bean bush and the tomato plant can be bought as a seedling or mature plant if you don’t have the time or patience to grow from seed. Lastly, I would plant mixed greens. This must be started from seed and will grow very quickly and regrows when you cut it. You child will get the experience of growing their own food from seed to table. This in turn will encourage your child to eat a wider variety of food.
Visit a Local Farmer’s Market
If you don’t have anytime to grow even a small garden and don’t have access to a farm the next step would be to visit your local farmer’s market. Most areas have a farmers market and it is a wonderful experience. Your child will see all of the seasonal fruit and vegetables that are grown locally. Many times there will also be local honey, pre-prepared foods, and flowers. Be sure to stop and point out unfamiliar fruits and vegetables to your kids. Sometimes I have had to ask the people at the stand what something is and how to prepare it. A learning experience for everyone.
Once you have harvested your bounty or brought it home it’s time for all hands on deck to help process the food. This past weekend my CSA had pick as much as you want basil so we went crazy and picked until we could pick no longer. When we got home not only did I have to prep all the other food but I need to remove the stems from the pounds of basil to make our pesto for the year. So I enlisted my little helpers to take the leaves off help to cut down my work load and teaches the kids how to prepare their own food. A skill that many people lack and it is so vital. Our kitchen is small and we don’t have an island so the kids stood on a stool at the sink and I propped myself up on the counter and we chanted “pasta pesto” and just chatted. Spending time with the kids doing such an important but simple task will hopefully build happy memories and keep the line of communication for years to come.
With the left over stems from the basil we take it to our farm to be composted. This is the first year that we have composted and I have realized what an amazing learning opportunity it is for my children. They have seen a plant’s life cycle in full circle from planting seeds to watching a plant grown and produce food. Then preparing the food to be consumed and putting the unused portion of the plant into compost to start the cycle all over again.
I have always eaten healthy but it has been only recently that I have taken a very active role in understanding and researching where our food is produced in order to not only eat healthier but to reduce our carbon footprint. Our children are the future and they need to have a better understanding of how their food is grown and why it is so important to take care of the land. Everyone must eat to survive so take the power back. Teach your kids to understand how to produce their own food and they will always have full bellies and be able to eat healthy.
Written by Jamie Jackson