I grew up in rural Wisconsin with farmers for neighbors and acres of our own on which our family grew food. So, from a young age, I understood the connection between the earth and our food sources. When mom would remind us to make healthy food choices, we knew and understood the “if you can pick it, pluck it, milk it or shoot it, it ok to eat it. ” rule.
“The what rule?” you say. Well, it wasn’t really a rule but just an understanding. We would pick our vegetables and then prepare them. We could go to the local dairy to get milk, cheese and yogurt and we could get meat straight from farmer who raised his cows or chickens or hunter who brought down the deer. We knew what came from the earth and what didn’t.
Now, as a parent in an urban environment, I am challenged with creating that connection with my children. How can they make healthy food choices if they don’t know where food comes from….I mean BEFORE we see it on the grocery store shelf? When my older child was a baby, I remember being horrified when I read about children, who, when presented with a bag of Cheetos and a bag of baby carrots, didn’t know which originated with the earth. But, I suppose that makes sense. They look somewhat similar (small, orange, oddly shaped) and are available in convenient snack-sized bags, so whats to stop a kid from thinking that Cheetos grow on the Cheetos Tree while carrots are manufactured in a plant?
ENTER farmers markets and gardening. Though we have a garden where my children gladly pull gnarly carrots straight from the earth to have as a snack, we make a point of hitting our local farmers market as regularly as possible. Here we can try a far larger variety of locally grown foods outside of what we grow plus we can get our hands on locally raised meats and last, but not least, the kids have a far better understanding of what you can pick, pluck, milk or shoot.