Farmers markets a great learning opportunity for kids

Farmers markets can be wonderful outdoor learning laboratories to help kids learn more about where their food comes from.

There were many learning opportunites for children at Kids Day at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market in 2013. Photo courtesy of Kendra Wills.

There were many learning opportunites for children at Kids Day at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market in 2013. Photo courtesy of Kendra Wills.

Michigan is the second most agriculturally diverse state in the nation. Due to this bounty of diverse produce, Michigan is home to more than 300 farmers markets and that number is growing each year.  Almost every city has a market, and these can be wonderful outdoor learning laboratories for youth.

Farmers markets expose youth to new foods they might not have heard of such as ramps or watermelon radish. Talking to the vendors at a farmers market about how fruit and vegetables grow, how they are harvested and how they can be used to make a recipe can engage students and encourage them to try new things. Michigan State University Extension offers some “lesson plan” ideas for a farmer market trip with youth.

In addition to the lessons vendors, parents and guardians provide, kids also may have the opportunity to participate in a more formal youth activity at the market. For example, the Holland Farmers Market has a schedule of kids’ activities (examples include face painting, seed planting, and a petting zoo) and the Ada Farmers Market has several youth activities scheduled for the 2014 market season. Many farmers markets also have Facebook pages that offer event announcements and other information. If you “like” their page you can receive information about events and available products in the market in your news feed.

At the Grand Rapids Downtown Market, MSU Extension and 4-H educators and staff will be hosting three kids’ activities this summer: 1) Seed planting on June 10; 2) Bingo in the market on June 24; and 3) Science activities for all ages on July 22. All three activities will be free with no pre-registration required. For more information about MSU Extension programs at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market, find us on Facebook.

To find a farmers market in your community, visit the Michigan Farmers Market Association’s website or contact your local MSU Extension office through www.msue.msu.edu or 1-888-678-3464.

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