Through no obvious or undue influence on my part, my two-year-old grandson, Jet, is evolving into a farmers market enthusiast. Jet, who lives in Arlington, Virginia, has become accustomed to frequenting several local markets each week. Nothing makes this mini culinarian happier than nibbling on plump blueberries or juicy grape tomatoes or slurping down the Holy GraEL of sorbet from the comfort of his stroller. One day he opts for doughnuts, peaches and mozzarella and the next day it is doughnuts, okra and beets. While doughnuts are clearly a regular fix (served warm on a stick, they are divine), he has also developed an uncontested taste for beets, okra and zucchini. Jet’s gastronomic gusto is a direct result of his parents decision to involve him in everything from shopping to preparing to enjoying the local bounty of the DC metro area. This makes his grandmother happy.
If the idea of a two-year-old happily munching on sautéed beets isn’t enough of a reason to support your local farmers markets, ours are listed here, read on.
1. Farmers market outings can, and should be, a family affair. The end result? Children will associate healthy eating with fun family days at the market.
2. Go (at least) once a week. As the seasons evolve so does the selection. Your children will learn and appreciate the seasonality of eating locally.
3. Start a conversation with the farmers and get to know their names. There is no better way to develop a connection to your food than by knowing that farmer Bob grew these carrots. Encourage your children to ask questions about the farmer’s favorite veggies, grossest bugs, etc.
4. Farmers markets help you teach your children to eat a rainbow of foods. Eggplants and beets are tastier when they are deep purple eggplants and hot pink beets.
5. While your kids are still jazzed about their procurement of okra, make sure you prepare and eat it the same day. Seize the moment, and the freshness.
6. Farmers market teach children about community and will instill a sense of spirit and pride.
7. Consider giving older children a dollar or two along with the freedom and responsibility to make their own purchases (doughnuts on a stick are A-OK).
8. It’s not all farmers and food business. Many farmers markets also have special events geared towards children like cooking demonstrations, live music and free samples!
Our local farmers markets will be hopping, for the most part, until the weekend prior to Thanksgiving (November 22-23) that gives families 11 weeks to swap out fast food for fresh food and have fun in the process.