Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Living Local with the Family: 12 Easy Ways to Raise Locavore Kids

You want to be a locavore. You love the idea of eating food that’s grown close to home, by farmers you can talk to, and on land you can actually set foot. But you have kids – and they’re suspicious of anything new you put in front of them. How can you introduce the concept of a locally grown diet to your family without causing a hunger strike?

It’s easier than you think. The first step is to get your children involved in finding local foods. Make it fun! Take them on field trips to show them where food comes from. Select a recipe you can prepare together, and then obtain at least one of the ingredients from a local source. I’ve tried it – and it works . . . at least sometimes.

My son, like most four-year-olds, is reluctant to try new foods, especially if they are a.) Green; b.) Vegetables; or c.) served to him at the dinner table. But on a recent trip to Holly Hill Farm in Cohasset, Abel happily sampled – and enjoyed – the following, plucked right from the garden: Johnny jump-ups, spinach, radish, cilantro, peppermint, and chives. If I served any of those foods to him at home, he would turn up his nose, but at the farm, his curiosity – and his appetite – was piqued.

Here are twelve things you can do with your family to inspire an interest in locally grown foods.

1. Go berry picking. Here in Plymouth and Bristol counties, there are a number of Pick-Your-Own berry farms. Blueberries are the most common, but some offer strawberries and raspberries as well. Read Robert McCloskey’s Blueberries for Sal before you go, and then imitate the sounds from the book as you fill your pail: “Kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk.” Try Tree-Berry Farm, Scituate; C.N. Smith Farm, East Bridgewater; Ward’s Berry Farm, Sharon; and The Blueberry Farm and Lipinski’s Farm, both in Hanson.

2. Visit the Farmers’ Market – For the most varied selection of locally grown foods, the farmers’ market is your best bet. These days, there’s one in nearly every town. (See the guide on page ? to find one near you). Bountiful, colorful displays of just-picked fruits and vegetables can whet even the pickiest person’s appetite. My son once grabbed a miniature pumpkin from a farmer’s kiosk and took a big bite! Farmers’ markets also offer locally produced honey, baked goods, jams, and other condiments -- often with complimentary samples!

3. Visit a Pick Your Own (PYO) Veggie Farm – When you arrive, you’ll learn what’s ready to be harvested. Decide what to get, and then have your children find, choose and pick it. It helps to have a recipe in mind, e.g. “We’re going to pick tomatoes, so we can make spaghetti sauce!” Last fall Abel and I dug potatoes and carrots at the market garden at Hingham’s Weir River Farm. I’ll never forget the look of delight on his face when he pushed a pitchfork into the soil and turned up dinner! Other farms with PYO crops: Back Acre Farm, Middleboro; Curly’s Farm Fresh, Acushnet; and C.N. Smith Farms, Bridgewater.

4. Go apple picking – You don’t have to drive west to find apple orchards. We have a number of small ones right here, close to home, including Mounce Farm in Marshfield, which is right down the street from our house. Upon arrival, Abel and I were given a stepladder, a bag, and a quick explanation of the best way to pick. We found a tree with low-enough branches, climbed up, and quickly filled our bag. Next stop: home – to make a delicious apple pie, of course! Check out: Dartmouth Orchards and Pocasset Orchards, Dartmouth; and The Big Apple & Pine Hedge, Wrentham.

5. Gather eggs – Did you know that eggs come in colors other than brown and white? At Today’s Harvest, a farm stand run by the Everett family of Marshfield, we found green eggs and speckled ones, and at Holly Hill Farm, blue. Local eggs are more flavorful, and you can’t beat the freshness! Ask around for local sources. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to scoop a still-warm egg right out of the nest. If not, you’ll still get to meet the hens and bring home a dozen eggs. Fresh eggs are widely available if you know where to look. Try Web of Life Organic Farm, Carver; Ohan Circle Farms, Holbrook; Prospect Hill Farm, Plympton; and Engelnook Farm, Rochester.

6. Visit a farm – A number of local farms welcome visitors. You can meet and sometimes feed the animals, watch or even participate in chores, and find out what it takes to run the place. Some of the animals are raised for meat, some for dairy. At Peaceful Meadows in Whitman, you can visit the cows and then enjoy ice cream made on the premises. (The company no longer produces its own cream, but you can use the visit as an opportunity to explain the connection between dairy cows and ice cream). Hingham’s Weir River Farm has Open Barnyard days throughout the summer and fall. The Plymouth County Sheriff’s Farm in Plymouth offers a free petting zoo with cows, chickens, goats, sheep, pigs and even a tortoise!

7. Go to a county fair – Head to the ground floor of “Aggie Hall” at the Marshfield Fair to see the vegetables, especially the giant pumpkins. Prizes are a great motivator, so the blue ribbons on zucchini and squash might inspire your kids to start their own garden. Check out the honeybees at work, and buy some local honey. The Marshfield Fair also hosts a 4-H program, so throughout the week there are livestock contests and demonstrations.

8. Attend a fall festival – Nearly every autumn weekend in southeastern Massachusetts, you can find a corn maze, hay ride, or harvest festival, many of which also sell locally grown foods. At Sauchuk Farm in Plympton, we navigated the corn maze, where the ears of corn still on the stalks fascinated Abel. “Mom, can we eat these?” Then we took a hayride out to a field where he picked his own pumpkin. Abel was less interested in making a jack o’lantern than in turning the pumpkin into pie. Other farms with PYO pumpkins include Bog Hollow Farm, Kingston; Beaver Brook Farm, East Bridgewater; and Keith’s Farm, Acushnet.

9. Watch a cranberry harvest – In October and November, local cranberry growers harvest their crops. Involving trucks, tractors, harvesters and conveyor belts – and millions of bright red berries – it’s a fascinating process, especially for heavy machinery enthusiasts. Buy some freshly picked berries and make some jelly, muffins, or bread. Check out: Log Cabin Acres, Carver; Highland Cranberry Company, Lakeville; and Stone Bridge Farm, Acushnet.

10. Make Maple Syrup – That stuff we put on our pancakes . . . it comes from trees! Want to see how it’s done? Visit a local maple farm. Watch them tap the trees, collect the sap, and cook it into syrup. At the South Shore Natural Science Center’s annual Maple Day, you can find out how it’s done. Or schedule a visit to Matfield Maple Farm in West Bridgewater or Davell’s Family Farm in North Attleboro.

11. Grow you own – If you have the time and the energy, starting a garden can be a rewarding project for the whole family. You can’t get more local than your own backyard! No space to plant? Try large pots, window boxes, or hanging planters. Start by perusing seed catalogs or visiting a garden center – the colorful pictures on the seed packets are a great way to get inspired. Even a toddler can sow seeds, and oh, the joys of watching the first sprouts emerge from the soil! Come summer, you just might catch you little one popping a cherry tomato into his mouth.

12. Join a CSA – We have raspberries in our yard, and occasionally some wild blueberries, but we haven’t found the time to grow our own garden. So last year we joined a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm. We got our hands dirty, helping to prepare the ground for planting and harvesting some ripe vegetables. Every Friday for 16 weeks, we brought home a bag or two of freshly picked produce. What an important lesson – that food doesn’t have to come from the store, or even the farmers’ market – it can come straight from the farm. Look for CSAs in your area on localharvest.org and farmfresh.org.

By Kezia Bacon-Bernstein
Originally published in edible South Shore.

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