Connecting Food to Farm for Kids

An earthy scent seeped into my car while driving through a rural area of North Carolina. The fresh, green smell took me back to when I was young and would visit my grandparents in upstate New York. Farmland surrounded their home, and a few cows would wander toward the fence when my sister and I crossed the front road to see them – with an adult, of course.

A farmer down the street invited my sister and me to stop by one day. He had a surprise. “Reach down toward the bottom of that green sprout, and pull up, gently but steadily,” he said. (Or something close to that.)

I had helped pick peas, zucchini and tomatoes in my grandparents’ large garden, but the only time we pulled like that was to ferret out weeds. Even a city girl like me knew better than to think weeding was a nice surprise. I wasn’t sure what to do.

My sister didn’t hesitate. She reached down, grabbed hold of a green tuft and tugged. To my astonishment, out popped a long, thin, orange carrot! I hadn’t seen a carrot come out of the ground before. I thought I knew my way around a garden, but I still had a thing or two to learn about growing vegetables.

During the summers at my grandparents’ house I learned about eating close to the source of produce – picking it, preparing it and eating it that evening.

Back home we didn’t have a vegetable garden; much of our produce came frozen in bags. But even without a garden, I learned how to eat fresh and local. My mother discovered the local farmers market shortly after opening day, and a trip across town became a weekly event. Later she added a stop at an independent grocery store that carried regional produce.

Triangle families are also fortunate to have various opportunities to introduce kids to local, fresh food. From farmers markets and community-supported agriculture programs to farm tours and incorporating local food at school, our area is growing in ways that connect farms to tables.

The trend toward eating closer to the source of food has established strong roots in our community. Several Triangle restaurants use local food in their kitchens. Parents interested in improving the health and wellness of their families while supporting the local economy and environment also may want to replace some processed foods with fresh items on their tables. We provide some real-life tips and advice on how to do that.

Last year, we published an article by local writer Kathleen Reilly featuring ways to involve them in community gardening, which connects kids with their communities as well as to the source of their food.  This piece was recognized as the top service for 2011 feature in our circulation category in the recent Parenting Media Association Editorial and Design Awards competition.

Carolina Parent also earned the top award for editor’s notes and the 2011 Baby Guide cover. The Baby Guide was also a finalist for overall design.

It’s gratifying to be recognized by professionals and educators for excellence in editorial and design, but what matters most to us is feedback from within our own community. We look forward to your response to our May issue, which will include some exciting changes. Be sure to pick up a copy next month and tell us what you think. As always, we will continue to strive to provide worthwhile and helpful information and resources for families in the Triangle.

Crickett Gibbons, Editor, Carolina Parent