Going to the Farmers’ Market with Children
Hey, families! The state of Massachusetts is open for business-all business! This includes most local farmers’ markets! A trip to the farmers’ market with your children is a nutritional learning experience, a fruit and vegetable adventure, or a perfect way to be outside and get your steps in. If you have never been to a farmers’ market or are just a little hesitant to go with your child, this article will ease your mind with some tips and suggestions for a terrific day.
Make a Plan-Prepare Yourself
As with any family outing, it is best to get your plans organized before heading out the door. DTA Finder will provide you with a list of options near where you live or if you want to take a car ride to the ocean or a lake, it will help you locate sites along your trip. Click here to find the perfect farmers’ market for you and your family, https://dtafinder.dtadash.ehs.mass.gov/. Make sure to note the days and hours of operation.
Prepare Your Child for a Trip to the Farmers’ Market
Introduce a trip to the farmers’ market as a new adventure. The best way to teach new information to a child is through books. This way, children will learn about the fruits and vegetables they might find at the market, why it is important to eat fruits and vegetables every day, understand where foods come from, and why a farmer’s job is so important. The following age-appropriate books will prepare your child for their farmers’ market experience:
- We’re Going to the Farmers’ Market, by Stefan Page, 2014, Board book for ages Infants-2 years.
- Tractor Mac Farmer’s Market, by Billy Steers, 2015, Picture book with recipes and fun facts for ages 2-5 years.
- Our Farmers’ Market, by Mary Meinking, 2020, Easy Reader book for ages 4-8 years.
- Fresh-Picked Poetry: A Day at the Farmers’ Market, by Michelle Schaub, 2020, a Picture book for ages 4-8 years.
On the Day of Your Trip
As you would with any adventure make sure everyone is ready to go with packed healthy snacks and water bottles. Once you arrive, some ways to keep your child engaged at the farmers’ market is to allow your child to pick one new item to try each week, pay for small items, and play some guessing games like, I Spy with My Little Eye, Show Me the Color…, Tell Me the Name of This Item, or Guess How This Grows. Most tables have a farmer or a farmhand there, so you and your child can go right to the source for any questions on how fruits and vegetables grow, life on the farm, or how the apples made it to the market.
Saving Money at the Farmers’ Market
At first glance, it may seem that prices of produce are higher at the farmers’ market than at your local grocer. This will depend on the size and bundling of each product. As an example, if your children love shredded carrots, the bag at the store may cost you $1.99 for only 6 ounces. But, at the farmers’ market, you can buy a 5-carrot bundle for $2.50 and then have a shredding party at home with your children. Fresh local vegetables will taste better as they have just been picked. The shredded carrots can be packed in individual baggies and frozen for future use. A great recipe to try is the Pineapple Carrot Muffins from Cooking Matters: https://cookingmatters.org/recipes/pineapple-carrot-muffins. You will save money over time and create another family bonding moment. Happy moments involving healthy foods will all lead to future healthy mindsets!
Another way to save money at the farmers’ market is to take advantage of the Healthy Incentive Program (HIP) dollars allotted on your SNAP EBT card every month. Use the DTA Finder site to make sure your farmers’ market is HIP eligible, click here: https://dtafinder.dtadash.ehs.mass.gov/. HIP allows you to buy fruits and vegetables as an added benefit if you are on SNAP in which you are immediately reimbursed for these purchases. Click here for more details, https://www.mass.gov/massachusetts-hip-gives-you-money-back-when-you-use-your-snap-benefits-to-buy-healthy-local-fruits. And for those who are on WIC (Women, Infants and Children), a nutritional assistance program to aid pregnant moms and moms with infants, there are additional funds to use at these markets as well. Find those details by clicking here https://www.mass.gov/orgs/women-infants-children-nutrition-program.
Farmers’ Markets Offer Variety in Produce Selection
While carrots are still fresh in your mind, did you know that they come in variety of colors? Most of the time you can only find the orange option at the store, but at the farmers’ market you will find a range of colors from white to yellow to purple. Try buying a different color each week or buy one of each color and have a tasting party with your children. Simply set out a plate with the different colored carrot sticks with a variety of dips or dressings to see what your family likes. Also, try different cooking methods to see which color or method has the best flavor for your family; sautéed, steamed, stir-fried, or baked. Other items offering a variety of colors include potatoes, onions, cauliflower, squash, grapes or eggplant.
Extend Your Child’s Learning in the Kitchen
Once you return home from the farmers’ market, involve your child in the care and preparation of the food items you bought together. Even at a young age, children can be included in preparing a meal. Ask your child for help in finding the ingredients in the refrigerator or in the cabinets. They can help you locate the mixing bowls and spoons or the measuring cups or cutting boards. You may not want them near the hot oven or the sharp cutting knives, but they can assist with pouring the ingredients, mixing the items in the bowl, or washing the dishes. Older children can read the recipe directions. Involving children in the cooking process will give them the necessary skills to make more life-long healthy food choices at every stage of life. Try making these Whole Grain Strawberry Pancakes with your family, recipe here: https://www.myplate.gov/recipes/myplate-cnpp/whole-grain-strawberry-pancakes.
Happy Experiences, Healthier Children
- Increase your knowledge of what to expect at the farmers’ market by reading books with your child
- Gain an understanding of the plant growing process, farm-to-table process, farm life, and how seasons impact foods
- Learn to make purchasing decisions
- Expose your child to a variety of fruits and vegetables to determine their favorites which may be different than your own
- Involve the children in developing cooking skills
- Connect happy family moments with healthy food experiences to support long-term healthy eating habits
Last tip from Broc
Keep an eye out for broccoli at your farmers’ market from July through October! Color this and place it on your fridge as a reminder, click coloring page: https://www.mahealthyfoodsinasnap.org/sites/default/files/UMASS_Document_SNAPED_ColoringP_GardeningBroc_2021.pdf.