By Jenny Totten, CARD Extension Agent
August 7-13, 2016, is National Farmers Market Week, where farmers markets all over the country are engaging customers in special events. By the beginning of this year, there were more than 8,500 farmers markets in the U.S. – that is 50% more than just five years ago!
If you aren’t already shopping at your local farmers market, what are you waiting for? A trip to the market is a great way to not only support local farmers and get fresher, healthier foods. It’s also a fun family activity for you and your kids. Here are some fun ways to engage the children in your community and your entire family in being a part of the local food system.
The first one is simple: Find your local farmers market. Research where your community’s markets are and what time they are open. The West Virginia Farmers Market Association maintains a list of member markets for the state. Children love seeing all of the fresh products, and farmers love talking to potential new, young customers. A word of caution: famers do not appreciate having their produce handled constantly. Remember that, in most cases, this is their livelihood, so handle with care only the items you intend to purchase, as best you can.
Educate yourself on where your food is coming from. Produce bought at the local supermarket and big box stores is most likely not West Virginia grown. For example, most tomatoes come from Florida, grapes from California, apples from Washington, potatoes from Idaho, and onions from as far away as Peru! When you buy from the local farmers market, you can be guaranteed that your foods are coming fresh from the farm down the street, down the road or in a nearby town. By knowing how far your food has traveled, you’ll better understand the benefits of buying local – the food is fresher for you and you’re helping your community farmers! Share this information with your children, even showing them the distances of common food travel on a map or globe. It’s a great visual for the youngsters to learn the importance of buying local and supporting small farmers.
Play the “local food hula hoop game” with your children. This is a fun way to show how far food actually has to travel, work on food recognition for the younger crew and get some exercise in, too! Here’s how you do it.
Local Food Hula Hoop Game
Materials: 10-12 hula hoops or sidewalk chalk; fake plastic fruits and vegetables or laminated pictures, some for West Virginia (apples, lettuce, tomato, pepper, peas, beans grapes) and some for Mexico (pepper, tomato, beans, mango, banana, grapes)
Optional, but fun: pictures of the maps of countries and states that you travel through to get from Mexico to West Virginia (Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky); picture of a grocery store; pictures of two farms
- Draw one giant circle or lay down one hula hoop for the grocery store
- Pick the “Local Food” side of the playing area and draw a circle or lay down a hula hoop for the WV Farm
- On the other side, draw or lay down one hula hoop for each state/country that the food must travel through, then add one more circle for the Mexico farm
- Place WV foods in the WV farm, place Mexico foods in the Mexico farm
Playing the Game:
- One person is the grocery store manager and must make food orders. The other players each pick West Virginia or Mexico to represent.
- The grocery store manager calls out fruits and vegetables and one farmer from each side must choose their vegetable or fruit and hop from circle to circle to get the order to the store.
- SOME foods will not be available at all farm locations.
Questions to ask:
- Which food do you think is fresher?
- What happens when there is a food recall out of a Mexican farm?
- What about if there is bad weather along the truck route?
These are just a couple ideas – and a fun game – to introduce farmers markets into your family life. To learn more about farmers markets and National Farmers Market Week, visit the Farmers Market Coalition website!