Walking and visiting my way through the Farmers Market recently, I noticed children. I always notice children, but lately I’ve been thinking about their experience with food. They were peeking at vendors’ wares, tasting this and that, standing with their parents when it came to discussing and purchasing food. A little boy, maybe nine, conversed with a vendor about the cheese his parents were interested in. Even on a dreary winter day the Market is a festival, and much of it at eye level, baskets bulging with onions or squash, tables piled with carrots and beets and leeks. Surely on some visceral level kids recognize that array of color and shape, the smell and texture of it all as kinesthetic, artful and pleasant. And then there’s more.
The scale is human. Farmers are often present with the food they’ve grown or produced, they’re eager to engage in sharing details of their harvest. Our children might notice that Farmers are an integral part of the array, evidence that there are actual people involved in growing and making food available. Supermarkets, which I’m grateful for by the way, have their place in our lives. But Farmers Markets must be good for developing a truer sensibility about sustenance, and eventually understanding the importance of local and sustainable.
All of this had particular meaning for me since I recently read an article by Joan Dye Gussow, “The Many Wonders of Plants” (Center for EcoLiteracy) in which she repeatedly mentions children and their learning about food. Near the middle of the two-page essay she describes a child in a grocery cart in a supermarket amidst a dazzling and daunting array of ‘ingredients’, as she puts it. Worth a quick read, it’s a reminder that the retail experiences we expose our kids to are as important as what we put on their plates.
Gussow mentions taking children to the garden and letting them ‘graze’. We’ll take you grazing soon, maybe turn you into a farmer via our Plot to Plate discussion – coming soon.