Living on a farm we can’t help but be connected to the food on our table. We’re by no means perfect when it comes to eating locally. We’ll never come close unless chocolate and coffee start sprouting up in Ohio.
While more of us are paying attention to adopting better habits for our own health and planetary health, it’s easy to overlook the vital and wondrous learning that is directly related to food. For my family, those lessons often have to do with shared experiences.
~Many years we head out to pick apples together on a bright fall day. After an indulgent week of eating and baking with as many apples as possible, we devote a day to applesauce. We cook the remaining bushels of fruit down, cranking Grandma’s Victorio strainer that pushes with sauce out one side and pulp out the other (pulp eagerly eaten by the chickens), then can jars of applesauce to eat all winter long.
~We have encouraged each child to choose his or her own “crop” to plant and tend in the vegetable garden. Harvesting and sharing the bounty of one’s own fresh green beans teaches the satisfaction of work right along with lessons in botany and soil health.
~We try recipes from around the world, not only while learning about other cultures, but also because we freely trade garden bounty with friends, and have to do something with unfamiliar herbs, roots and fruits.
~We visit nearby farms. Observation and conversations with those who live on the land have been instructive, teaching us practices we want to emulate and those we hope to avoid.
~We eat meals together every day. Cooking frugally by choice as well as necessity has brought us myriad conversations about health, trends, politics and defining worth for ourselves. Of course our meals also precipitate family humor related to home ground grains that result in breads darker than wet cardboard and yes, we’ve had one or two loaded spatula chases around the kitchen. Oh wait, that didn’t involve the kids, just me thinking it might be funny to fling frosting at my husband.
~Unintentionally we learn by making plenty of mistakes. Ordering 25 pounds of organic buckwheat from the food co-op before knowing if anyone would eat it, raising our first flock of turkeys on faith more than fact, repeatedly attempting to make cheddar cheese although we can’t maintain the temperature needed to age it, well, this list could go on.
10 Things We Should Teach Every Kid About Food, recently posted on Every Kitchen Table, offers a handy list of important food-related categories to explore with our children. The ideas are important and too often overlooked, such as the precepts of the industrial food system and the insidious effect of food advertising.
Here are some related resources:
Improve School Lunches With Locally Grown Food This article offers information plus strategies to bring positive change to your school district, whether you have children in school or not.
Don’t Buy It A non-profit site with learning games to help kids evaluate and analyze media messages.
I Buy Different A website sponsored by New Dream and World Wildlife Fund with tools to help tweens and teens be, live, and buy differently to make a difference.