Welcome to Day 7 of the Outdoors Family Challenge! This is a seven day challenge to help get you and your kids outside, living more sustainably, and connecting more with nature and each other. You can read about our experience yesterday or check out the archived prompts on the Outdoors Family Challenge page. If you would like updates each morning with the activities, sign up for the email list or like my Facebook page.
Visit a farmers market, farm stand, local farm or pick-your-own.
One of our biggest but most overlooked connections to nature is our food. More than any other industry, agriculture is intimately connected to natural cycles, influenced by the weather and ecosystems. Unfortunately, most people are quite disconnected from what ends up on their plate. But with the growth of interest in local and regional agriculture, it’s the easiest it’s been in decades to connect with where your food comes from, even if you live in a city.
The easiest way to connect is by visiting your local farmers’ market. Find some near you with the USDA’s search tool.
While many farmers’ markets also include food trucks, bakeries, and other purveyors, their biggest focus is on connecting farmers with consumers. Being able to talk to the farmers – or their staff – in person allows you to ask questions and learn more about what you’re eating. You can learn about their growing process, whether it’s organic, naturally certified, or low-pesticide. I’ve even talked to farmers about my own garden and picked up some invaluable tips.
Farmers usually display at the same markets all season and often come back year after year, making it possible to establish relationships. There’s a girl we’ve seen working one stand now for years. While we’ve seen her get more mature – she may be in college now – she’s seen our family grow. She’s always so happy to see the kids. These connections offer another layer to your experience of cooking and eating your food. You know that you’re supporting a small, local business.
With your kids, walk around to the different stands and look at all of the options. Encourage your kids to (gently) pick up the produce and decide what to buy. Kids who help pick out fruits and vegetables are actually more likely to try them later! Teach them how to tell if something is ripe, from looking at the color for peppers to the noise when you tap melons.
If your kids are outgoing enough, they can even ask the farmers questions. If there’s a type of vegetable you aren’t familiar with, have them ask what it is and the best way to use it. They also may want to ask about what it’s like being a farmer or why they chose to be one.
If you want to get really ambitious, actually visit a farm to pick up some produce or pick your own. (Find a nearby farm with this pick-your-own locator.) This is the season for apples in many regions of the US, a classic pick-your-own crop. As you pick, talk to your kids about all of the work that went into growing this food. Also, please be respectful of that work! Farmers definitely prefer it if you don’t just throw apples with a single bite out of them on the ground.
Whatever you choose to do will help connect you more intimately with the people and ecosystems that helped produce your food.
When you finish shopping or picking, take a photo of your haul and post to our Facebook page, At the park, take a photo of what you see and post it to the We’ll Eat You Up We Love You So Facebook page, to your Twitter account, or to your Instagram account with the hashtag #outdoorsfamilychallenge!
Thank you for participating in the Outdoors Family Challenge! We hope that these activities helped connect you more with your family and nature.