Harvest adventure and learning opportunities at your local farm market
Farm markets can provide rich educational experiences linked to good nutrition for even our youngest consumers.
Farm markets are not just for farmers! With lots of summer still ahead of us, farmer’s markets present a unique shopping experience that you and your children will not find in your local supermarket. A trip to a farm market can be a fun, inexpensive outing that will provide new sights, smells, sounds and tastes as you explore the colorful world of local produce and growers.
Don’t know where there is a market near you? Check out the Michigan Farmer’s Market Association website search feature. Michigan’s official travel and tourism site, Pure Michigan, can also assist you in finding an agricultural adventure that’s sure to please the whole family.
When planning a trip to the farm market with children, there are several things you will want to consider to assure that your visit is memorable, safe and fun for the whole family. Check to see if the market you plan to visit has a website that offers information on parking, coupons, activities and a map. Many farm markets feature special activities for children who come to visit. Farm markets can cover a large area so you will want to plan transportation for your youngest shoppers. A stroller or wagon is ideal, and you can use the extra space to carry home your fresh purchases. Keep a watchful eye on your children. A farm market can be a busy, bustling place and is unfamiliar and overwhelming to very young children.
Pre-school children can walk along with you, carrying their own produce bag in which to store their purchases. Children will feel more grown up if they have their own tote and a designated spending amount. Let them weigh, count and pay for their purchases to teach and reinforce math skills.
Talk with your children about produce that is seasonal (“Why don’t we see bananas here?”); talk with them about where and how things are grown and how farm market produce is fresh from the farm. Encourage kids to ask questions of local growers and help them find answers. Some activities you may want to plan before or after your visit include:
- Have each family member try to find the most unique fruit or vegetable to take home to try. Visit the Michigan Fresh website on your return home to find fact sheets on how to store, prepare and preserve your farm market finds.
- Plan a farm market scavenger hunt. Before you go, make a list of foods, sights, sounds and objects that children should look for on the farm market visit.
- Create a salad made with only local produce and farm market purchases. Experiment with tastes and colors. Get your children involved in healthy shopping and cooking.
- Have children make a list of all the fruits and vegetables they found on the trip. Look for vegetables and fruits that are each color of the rainbow. You might have them try to find items that begin with each letter of the alphabet.
- Sample the many local products that are being offered. Tasting is encouraged at most farm markets. Picky eaters are more apt to eat something if they choose it themselves.
- Plan a small garden of your own to teach children about planting, caring for, harvesting and using fresh vegetables.
- Explore the world of gardening and healthy foods in children’s books. “Rah, Rah, radishes!” by April Pulley Sayre explores the world of vibrant vegetables with rhyming chants and beautiful farm market photos. “The Runaway Garden,” by Jeffery L. Schatzer is a “delicious story that’s good for you, too.” Your local library has a wealth of children’s books that will please even the youngest garden explorer.
Michigan State University Extension suggests making your local farm market a regular stop on your summer schedule for a unique learning experience, healthy shopping choices and fun for the whole family.