Saturday, July 02, 2011

Food Revolution Friday: The Great Farm Challenge


When Kevin was little, he didn't watch a lot of TV, but when he did, there were two things he loved to watch most of all; people cooking, and Bob Villa building. At the time we had Food Network and so now and then we'd settle in for an episode of Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver, or Martha Stewart. At five, Kevin was giving me advice for what to put in different dishes ("fresh sage and cranberries in that turkey stuffing, Mom"). Of all that TV watching and the culinary tips and education it gave me, one truth stuck with me through all those years and until now. In one episode (I don't remember which), Jamie had stated that children will eat whatever food you give them. If you assume they will only eat kid food and that's what you feed them, that's what they'll eat. If you give them what you are eating, then those flavors will be the norm.

Kevin always was interested in where food came from. At three, we took him on a farm tour in our community (pictured above) where he got to pull vegetables out of the ground, sample farm fresh corn, and gather eggs. We visited my uncle's almond orchard in California to see how they were produced, toured Fanny Bay oyster farm, sweated through a pistachio orchard in New Mexico, stomped around a cranberry farm, savored apples from a local orchard, saw grain being milled at a community fair, and much more. The reason I did this with him was not, at the time, so that I could teach him about local food. I had no agenda other than to satisfy his never ending curiosity about the world around him, to spend time as a family, and quite simply, to have fun. Kevin has always been interested in science, and since a lot of food and the growing of it is scientific, it was a natural fit-almost serindipidous, really. Food was always more than just something to eat in our family. It became a teaching tool from math to language arts, science and social studies, a multi-sensory way to draw Kevin into learning. For kids with learning and social difficulties, it's an incredible tool to draw on.

Growing up, my family didn't ever really talk about food. It was just there-my grandma had a farm and we learned early on how to collect eggs, milk a cow, and where beef came from. Being an outdoorsy child, I soon knew where to find the best wild strawberries, that wild chives could be pulled up and nibbled on, and when to steal the best spring peas from my Mom's large garden. In the summer my family would buy huge flats of fruit from the vendors on the sides of the road and together, we'd can or freeze it for the winter. Hot lunch at school was only once a month-and while it was never really that healthy, once a month was something we could live with. There was no concious education, it just happened as I sat at the kitchen table hulling strawberries and watching my Mom freeze them.

It makes me incredibly sad that these days, my generation has lost the knowledge of food and cooking even the most simple items. We have placed more emphasis on the wrong things, instead of the basics of what we really need to live-and we have allowed others to take over the most basic, most important part of our lives and profit hugely from it.

This summer, I'm issuing all my readers a challenge. Find a farm in your area, pack up your kids, and go visit. Then buy some of the food, bring it home, and eat it. Grow your own if you can. Read some books about farms, fruit and veggies. You don't have to do anything elaborate, or feel that you need to be the next Martha Stewart. It's never too late to teach your kids where their food comes from. Kevin and I have plans to venture out to local farms in August, with the intention of showing you just how amazing and fun it can be. In September, every Friday we'll feature a different farm-and I'd love it if you'd play along! You'll have the chance to upload photos of your farm travels to my Facebook page, or you can link up and post about your summer farm travels on the posts. You don't have to wait until September, start now-and I'll all summer long we'll have one big happy Farm Fest. Make sure to email, leave a comment, or link to me and I'll be sure to mention you in a Food Revolution Friday so that we can all share in each other's discoveries.

Let's do a farm festival guys, from coast to coast.

Because anyone can pull up a carrot.

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