Exploring Farmers’ Markets with Kids
Ahhh, summertime…warm evenings, fresh fruits, cool treats, swimming holes! It is so easy to enjoy the outdoors without thinking about our impact, but wouldn’t it be amazing to enjoy the outdoors AND make a positive impact? Today, Creative Team member and Nevada mom of 2, Ashley Greenhalgh is highlighting how to explore a farmers’ market with your kids. Farmers’ markets are an important part of communities, where you can shop small, meet your local farmers, reduce your carbon footprint and learn to eat seasonally. There are so many benefits of farmers’ markets, let’s dig in!
Exploring a farmers’ market with kids
Exploring a farmers’ market is an outdoor activity your whole family is sure to enjoy. Exploring farmers’ markets with kids can also help your community in a number of ways! Today, I’m excited to share this fun outing with you and cover the basics of what to expect, as well as some tips to enjoy farmers’ markets like a pro. I hope that this post inspires you to get out with your kids and have some good ol’ family fun at your local farmers’ market (and make healthy food choices and meet new friends along the way!).
What is a farmers’ market?
A farmers’ market is an open area where local farmers, makers, bakers, artists, and even musicians set up displays to sell their local goods and share their passions with the community. Each booth space at a local farmers’ market offers something a little different than the rest, making each market a totally unique experience. When you think of farmers’ markets, you may only think of rows upon rows of fruits and vegetables. And while that is definitely a highlight of any good farmers’ market, there is so much more than fruits and veggies to enjoy and explore!
Farmer’s markets are made up of people who passionately grow their fruits and vegetables, bake their bread and pastries, paint their canvases, set up amazing displays, create their own products and work tirelessly to provide local healthy, delicious, beautiful options for you to purchase.
There are usually free samples, free music, and other free or inexpensive options for you to enjoy, making farmers’ markets a fun (and inexpensive) place to hang out, make friends, discover new foods, and meet your community.
Farmers’ markets are good for you (and everyone else)
Did you know that farmer’s markets are GREAT for our local economies, our health, and the environment?!
Purchasing local food is good for the environment. For example, consider the difference between buying peaches from a farm 20 miles from your home versus a farm 400 miles away. Think of the labor, drive time, packaging, processing, and emissions that are saved when the transportation time is reduced. Now multiply that by say 40 vendors at a local farmers market. It is pretty easy to see that shopping local is a great way to help the environment.
Shopping local is also beneficial to your own community and neighborhood. When you purchase food, goods, or services from a local vendor, more of that money stays in your community and area. Your local economy can flourish if everyone seeks out more local options and shops small.
Making connections at the market
The farmers, artists, master gardeners, makers, craftsmen, and entertainers at local farmer’s markets are some of the most hardworking, kind people you will meet. A farmers’ market is a great place to meet genuine and interesting people. The vendors are usually very passionate about the products they produce and the food they grow/harvest. You’ll find that they’re often very willing to talk to you (and especially your kids) about their processes, experiences, and backgrounds. They may even offer you a tour of their farm, a demonstration, or a free sample. The setting is perfect for children to meet and interact with a wide variety of interesting and passionate adults, as well as others their age. Exploring farmer’s markets with your kids is a simple and fun way for them to make community connections and meet new friends.
For more information on how to meet farmers and/or get information on local farms in your area, check out this post on teaching kids about where food comes from.
New foods, new recipes
Farmers’ markets are some of the best places to take your kids to get them more interested in new foods and recipes. There’s such a huge variety of foods at local farmers’ markets, in addition to fresh fruits and vegetables. There are usually meats and cheeses, sausages and eggs, local honey (great for allergies) and salsa, baked goods and jams (and so much more). If your kids are not familiar with the fruits/vegetables available, purchase a few different options to take home and try. Chances are, even if they weren’t huge fans of the vegetable before (or didn’t know anything about it), they will be once they taste fresh produce they picked out and learned about.
Including kids in the act of choosing new vegetables, new fruits, or a new herb can get them excited to try something different! Let your child pick out a seasonal fruit or an exotic fruit to try when you get home. It’s like a treat or a reward that they helped pick out. And there are so many different colors and textures of foods for them to experience at a farmer’s market. You’re sure to find something delicious even for the pickiest of eaters. You might even discover something delicious enough that you choose to plant it in your own vegetable garden next year!
Most of the vendors at our local farmers’ market have free samples to try, as well. It is so much fun for kids to try yellow watermelon, pluots, and lemon cucumbers to name a few. Many vendors also will suggest a simple recipe for a vegetable, herb, or fruit that isn’t well known. Your children will love choosing something new to try at home!
Healthy options for less
Since local produce doesn’t have the high transportation costs that are associated with lots of big-box grocery store chains, many of the healthy foods you will find are less expensive than at a grocery store. Not to mention food that hasn’t been shipped hundreds of miles, is fresher (so it tastes better), and has way less plastic wrapping and packaging! These are all benefits of shopping local and small, which also help reduce your carbon footprint.
Did you know that most of the fruits and vegetables you’ll find at grocery stores are picked prior to being ripe so that they are hard and don’t get damaged during transport? The local fruits and vegetables at a farmer’s market are often picked within 24 hours of you seeing them! They’re fresh, delicious, and more nutritious than what you’ll usually find at a big grocery store.
Farmers’ markets affordably
The SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) provides monthly benefits to millions of low-income families across the country to purchase food and beverages. Starting in 2017, families have been able to use their EBT cards to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from their local farmer’s markets. Click the link to learn about SNAP at farmers’ markets.
Another amazing program increasing accessibility to low-income seniors is the SFMNP (Seniors Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program). This program is “designed to provide low-income seniors with access to locally grown fruits, vegetables, honey, and herbs.” Click the link to learn more about the SFMNP program.
Availability of farmers’ markets
Depending on the weather in your area, markets may be open year-round or seasonally. Some markets are open once or twice per week, or a couple of times per month. There are daily markets and weekly markets. There are morning, afternoon, or evening markets. Be sure to check out the hours, days, and seasons your local farmers’ market is open.
We have found that evening markets many times have food trucks and music, so it makes for a fun, easy evening outdoors where we can enjoy someone else’s cooking! Morning markets are filled with fresh produce and baked goods. This makes an enjoyable morning tasting fresh fruits, enjoying breakfast, buying local produce, and connecting with our community members. Honestly, there’s no bad time of day to visit the farmers’ market.
To find local farmers’ markets, a simple internet search with your area and the words “farmers’ markets.” (Northern California farmers’ markets or St. Louis farmers’ markets, for example). This will provide a local website or list of options in your area.
Many of the farmers’ markets that operate twice per week, for example, do so for variety. A market may feature fruits and vegetables on a weekday, and arts/ crafts on a Saturday. This provides variety for customers and keeps things interesting.
Power of Produce
The Power of Produce (POP) Club is an organization for kids hosted by the Farmers Market Coalition (FMC) which provides a set of over 50 tools, guides and templates to help communities engage younger customers in the farmers market experience through POP Club. The club provides a fun opportunity for children to engage in the local food system through conversations directly with farmers, educational games and demonstrations, and exposure to new fruits and vegetables. In addition to participating in educational activities, POP Club kids receive vouchers to spend at the market, allowing them to make their own shopping decisions at the market. For more information, check out their website.
Other benefits of farmers’ markets
Besides being great for your community, environment, and health there are a few other benefits to exploring farmers’ markets with kids!
Farmers’ markets are a great low-stress environment for them to learn about money and work on social/communication skills. If your kids have some money saved, they can work on talking with vendors, asking questions, adding up items, weighing/measuring, counting money, and calculating change. There are so many great skills that kids can develop from the simple act of shopping! It is a fun, interactive way for them to learn some math and money skills!
More than just food
There are so many other fun, outdoor activities you can find at many farmers’ markets, in addition to fresh produce. We’ve experienced everything from live music at open-air concerts, to cooking demonstrations, a petting zoo, plant displays, pumpkin patches, fresh-cut flowers (make your own bouquet stations), yoga classes, story time (from local authors), and art demonstrations. Many of these activities are free, inexpensive, or merely ask for a small donation. We once found an art bus where the girls could tie-dye a small reusable bag for $5. They had a blast interacting with the small business owner and making something they can use again and again.
Bring your furry friends!
A fun added bonus: you can usually bring your furry friends to the farmers’ market! Since most farmers’ markets are outdoors, many allow dogs on leashes. Kids and dogs are a great combination and can be an icebreaker for your children to meet and interact with others. Exploring farmers’ markets with kids is a great way to bond with them and others, get some exercise, support your community, and help the environment. Is there anything better than that?
Helpful tips for visiting a farmers’ market with kids
- Think ahead of time what you’re looking for at a farmers’ market. If you’re looking for the freshest produce, fruits and vegetables, hitting up the farmers’ markets early in the morning is your best chance of getting the most variety.
- If you’re going to an evening market where there are food trucks and music, it is nice to have a blanket to sit on the grass.
- Bring a basket or reusable bags to carry your produce. Most places do not have bags or boxes, so try to remember to bring your own. This also cuts down on plastic waste.
- Carry some cash. While many vendors accept cards, some may not. Plus, it makes it faster and easier to pay with cash when you’re browsing and trying to purchase a few small things from various vendors.
- Bring a reusable water bottle ~ many markets will have refilling stations for bottles, but not cups. In addition, many markets are during the heat of a sunny day so it is nice to have some cold water on hand.
Have you ever explored a farmers’ market with your kids?
About the author
Ashley is a nature-loving mother of two who is passionate about outdoor education for parents and their children. Ashley grew up in Alaska, where her family spent most of their time outdoors fishing, camping, skiing, and hiking. She currently lives with her husband and children near the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Lake Tahoe, where they can be found outdoors year-round; hiking, backpacking, biking, skiing, and camping. She is also very passionate about photography and owns a small photography business.
You can find more from Ashley in the following online locations:
Website: Sage & Summit Photography
RWMC posts: Ashley Greenhalgh
The post Exploring Farmers’ Markets with Kids appeared first on RUN WILD MY CHILD.