Took our tykes to a farm!
As part of being a site served by the Capital Area Food Bank (our kids receive a daily afterschool snack and, now that it’s summer, lunch) we get to participate in the Farm Youth Initiative, where our kids get to visit a local farm to learn all about healthy plants and how we grow ‘em.
One long and not entirely barf-free bus ride brought us to Clagett Farm, which partners with the food bank. We were ushered into a barn where I immediately met the beautiful, comforting sight of scads of fresh garlic hanging from the ceiling to dry (garlic that I’ve been getting to eat all week, garlic that is SPECTACULAR!)
I admired the attitude they tried to instill about nature in the kids; they pointed out that yes there were bugs everywhere on the farm, but were it not for the bees and the wasps doing their crucial pollinating, they would have no new plants. “Don’t bother them and they won’t bother you. You are a giant. They are scared of you.” And sure enough, everyone stayed calm and no one got stung.
We began with some games that reviewed good nutrition (the kids had already received an intro nutrition class back at our site). The way they approached everything was simple and age-appropriate. The basic take-home lessons were
1. The first ingredients should be something good for you
2. A short list is a good list
3. Don’t eat anything you can’t pronounce
In this activity, which involved buckets of water (many many points for farm people!), the kids ran relays to dump cups into buckets. Their cups had ingredients written on them (everything from “carrots” to “high fructose corn syrup”) and they had to pour them into the “healthy” or “unhealthy” bucket. They were into it!
Then we marched up to the small but beautifully maintained gardens.
Clagett farm is gigantic (it was originally a tobacco farm that was repurposed for organic fruits and veggies and various education programs), but this little section is specifically for the Farm Youth Initiative, the partnership with the Capital Area Food Bank that brought us here.
They very cleverly divided up the garden into the “pasta garden” (ingredients that you would put into pasta or a pasta salad like the one we’d eat later that day), and a “pizza garden” (ingredients for pizza). A great way for kids to see fresh veggies not as (eurgh) actual fresh veggies but as ingredients in delicious foods with which they were comfortable and familiar.
And they got to pick them!
The instructors reviewed the techniques for properly picking tomatoes, hot peppers (hint: don’t touch them directly or they’ll burn you!), and carrots (which were tricky to get out of the ground! They stepped in giving them a little nudge with a spade. Apparently the trick to picking carrots when they’re ready is to wait until you can see the orange tops of the carrots sticking out)
The kids were all responsible for washing and weighing their produce (they were annoyed that they didn’t get to hold on to their individual tomatoes and carrots, because some were “better” than others. I swear to God, the things kids come up with to be competitive about are truly insane).
Anyway, they ended up with a pretty good lookin’ stash!
We played around the garden a little more: while one of the guides ran to another building to get supplies, I introduced the kids to “nature’s gum” (fresh mint). They were super into it! When I was a kid and we’d go out to dinner, I always ate the mint garnish on fancy desserts (well I mean, actually I still do).
Then we got to play in the sprinkler (which is totally still just as fun when you’re an adult) and then paid a visit to some chickens!
The guides told the kids that the chickens liked eating juicy crickets, grasshoppers, and praying mantises, and the kids had WAY too much fun catching bugs and throwing them into the chickens. The chickens were actually eating straight out of kids’ hands by the end of it (which our guides said was really unusual).
Back to the barn we went, for a quick activity identifying the veggies we saw in the garden that went into the snack we were about to eat..
And then it was local food time! Whoo! I was very very obviously very very excited.
The table was beautifully laid out, with scrumptious looking whole-wheat pasta salad, that contained (this is clever, people with kids should do this) vegetables that were shredded so finely you were hard-pressed to tell what they were)
And bowls with a colorful selection of the veggies they themselves had picked (those yellow tomatoes are probably the most sweet, delicious of their kind I have ever been fortunate enough to taste) and, to keep the kiddos happy, some cheese.
In general, I was disappointed about how little the kids ate. A lot of them raved about the cucumbers (perhaps the texture of that is more familiar to them? Kids like crunch?), and some of them just kept on eating the yummy salad, but in general they were still kind of apprehensive about the whole thing. We also just have a bunch who never seem to eat anything…
Anyway, I sure did! And more and more and more. I could not stop. It was SO GOOD!
Hilarious: I point my camera at this, and Karen, one of our most sarcastic/generally badass fifth graders (whom I adore), looks at me and says, “You would take a picture of your pasta salad, Ileana”.
Yes. I would.
Trip concluded with a visit to the porta potties. Mitigated by the beautiful flowers blooming near them!