The things my kids learn at farmer’s markets

October 7, 2009

His schoolteacher…had cut an apple and held one-quarter of it up to the class: this is the amount of earth that is not water; and then cut the quarter in half – this is the amount of arable land; and cut again – this is the amount of arable land not covered by human habitation; and finally, the amount of land that feeds everyone on the earth barely a scrap of skin.” –from The Winter Vault by Anne Michaels

I go to a lot of farmer’s markets. My husband mocks me for it, but whenever we travel in the summer, I always find a weekend market. Sometimes even a weekday market. This summer alone, we went to markets in Haney, Squamish, 100 Mile House, Qualicum Beach, and of course Vancouver. I love the mix of fresh, healthy food with artisan bakers/food producers and crafts. And I always drag the kids.

Now I should disclose my interest here — I’ve gotten involved in food issues over the past few years, and now sit as a member of Vancouver’s Food Policy Council, an advisory body to the Mayor and Council of Vancouver on issues of food and food security. I also champion food issues for the Board of Trade’s Sustainability Committee. I’m not an organic-vegan hippie foodie, but rather am interested in preserving farmland for farming, in ensuring we have local food available, and in growing local food industries.

OK, got that off my chest. Now back to farmer’s markets. I love the variety of vendors. I love finding new stuff at different locations. My whole family still raves about the bison burgers we bought in Squamish this summer. And I love discovering new fruits and vegetables. Just last week at the Kitsilano market I bought a lemon cucumber (very cool and great fresh taste), yellow and purple carrots, and a variety of tiny plums I can’t remember the name of but am heading back next Sunday to get more of because they were the sweetest thing I ever ate.

My husband isn’t huge on markets, but my kids have grown to love them. To be fair, they nearly always get some kind of baked good snack (at Kits, try the Welsh cakes or the butter tarts!), and there’s veggies and fruit and cheese to taste. But last weekend, I discovered that they like a lot of things I like at the market. They like finding cool veggies. My 8 year old chose this wierd shaped red pepper and insisted I buy it. My 6 year old loves the differently coloured carrots. They both went gaga over the mini pumpkins and loved that I let them each choose one to buy. And because I’ve drilled it into them, they now get that farmers make more money if we buy at markets than the grocery store.

Sample conversation from last weekend:

8 yr old: “IGA has these same mini pumpkins at the same price, you know.”

6 yr old: “But if we bought them at IGA the farmer only gets like ten cents of the dollar we paid.”

8 yr old: “And at the market the farmer gets the whole buck!”

And they’re right. And I love that they know that. Of course, they also know that the cinamon buns at one baker’s stand are larger than the scones at the other stand. Still, baby steps.

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