My husband and I used to visit local farmers’ markets more frequently before we had kids. (We all used to do a LOT more things before kids, didn’t we?) As much as we said life wouldn’t change when kids came along, they did. Of course. But, while we don’t go as frequently or to as many markets as we used to, we still make it a point to go. Usually when things warm up (we usually make one concerted effort during winter, but it’s mostly meat and root vegetables - or brought in from out-of-state), we scope out the weather for the weekend and, if it looks good, put off the weekly grocery shopping until after our favorite local farmers’ market on Saturday morning. And off on a family adventure we go. Here are just a handful of my favorite reasons we bring our family to the farmers’ market:
- Way more fun than grocery shopping. Depending on how you feel about grocery shopping, a trip to the farmers’ market usually rates higher on the “fun” scale. It’s assumed you’ll socialize with the farmers, and oftentimes this congeniality spills over to the other patrons. Oh, and so many people bring their friendly dogs and kids. What’s more fun for kids? (Aside from free samples…) - Doubles as a play date. It’s a great place to meet another family and casually peruse the offerings. There’s usually enough space for kids to play (some of our markets are in parks but our “main” one is in a large paved area - still enough breathing space for kids to goof around), and usually a kid-friendly food truck for snacks or beverages. And I can’t count how many people we know that we run into anyway! It kind of turns into an impromptu play date, regardless (for parents AND kids). - Doubles as mealtime. Speaking of kid-friendly fare, ours usually has at least two food trucks and one beverage truck in addition to the amazing fresh goodies available. So, if we don’t feel like having breakfast beforehand, we can buy a baked good at one of the vendors or a “breakfast bowl” from a food truck. Or, if we want to grab a quick lunch at the end of our shopping, we’ll split a brick oven pizza (seriously, we’re spoiled) or natural hotdog or quesadilla. And the fresh-squeezed lemonade is even more amazing since they also serve local coffee (for the parents who need it to, y'know, keep going). As fruit becomes more and more plentiful (I’m talking to you, berries!), our kids will down a carton in one sitting, so that alone works for a quick snack. Add some freshly baked bread and grass fed cheese and you’re picnicking like the best of ‘em. - Broadens the family’s culinary scope. Last weekend, our son picked out these greenish purple heirloom tomatoes instead of regular cherry ones, spinach (which normally he’s not into), and devoured a pizza with whole pieces of basil without flinching. That wouldn’t have happened at home. Let’s just say that between being able to talk to the farmers about their food and simply making these foods available to them, our kids are becoming braver about their food choices. (The fact that there aren’t a million processed food aisles surrounding us helps, too.) - Teaches children about the food system and sustainability. It takes baby steps to live sustainably, doesn’t it? From using cloth diapers to choosing reusable grocery bags to picking foods that nourish our bodies more sustainably, it’s those small choices that eventually add up to an overall philosophy - we want to treat the world and ourselves with kindness. Well, the farmers’ market is a great, hands-on way to not only tell our children but SHOW them how our choices impact the world. I explain to my son why we go for the organic fruits and veggies, or why we care about grass fed and free-range eggs, meat, and cheeses. If we just bought these things without involving our kids, it wouldn’t pass the meaningful decision-making along to them. They feel invested and I hear our almost 5-year-old making decisions with reason now. It’s a valuable lesson all around. - Shows kids what a community is - and the importance of supporting it. So many of our farmers and vendors know and remember our family - and it’s not just because my husband and I have been visiting them for years. They talk directly to our son and daughter and call them by name. They care that he’s excited about starting kindergarten and comment on how tall she’s getting. They remember our favorite foods and point out whether they’re available. It’s heart-warming. Watching as people meet each other and socialize (and are able to ask questions about their food), it reminds me of what communities truly are. We may see friends when we’re there, but everyone feels connected whether a stranger or not. Seeing the huge range of people alone makes you feel like you’re a part of something bigger. And sometimes forking over a little more money knowing that you’re getting a quality product that will nourish your family on a higher level, and that the money will be going directly to a family working hard to produce that item, is way easier and more fulfilling than a trip to the market (although we do budget accordingly). So, do you have a local farmers’ market you like to frequent with your family? What’s your favorite thing to do there? Are you all about the produce? The crafty vendors? Or do you like it to double as a social event as much as we do? I’d love to hear in the comments!