5 Family-Friendly Tips for the Farmers’ Market

Knowing where your food comes, who grows it, and what it looks like before landing on your plate is an important discovery for kids of all ages—and the farmers’ market is the perfect place to learn. Whether your kids are old enough to help out (or, most likely, “experiment”) in the kitchen, they will love the experience. Here are a few pointers for getting the most fun out of your next visit.

BRING AN OPEN MIND (AND AN EMPTY STOMACH)

Go to the market without a concrete shopping list. You never know what was harvested that day, so have fun exploring the stands and finding new fruits and vegetables. Take samples to taste and let your kids ask the vendors questions about how to prepare a new ingredient. For example, many vegetables still have their tops, so don’t toss ’em! Sauté beet greens in olive oil, add turnip greens to a salad mix, and make pesto with those fern-like carrot tops.

SMALL CHANGE; BIG REWARDS

Give the kids a few dollars to spend at their discretion. It will teach them how to do a healthy grocery shop and make them more willing to try new fruits and veggies when they’ve chosen the produce themselves. Plus, farmers appreciate smaller bills and change, so everyone wins.

BYOB (BRING YOUR OWN BAG)

Most vendors will have plastic bags for your items, but a big part of the local food movement is sustainability. Pack reusable totes and make sure the kids have their own to start the habit young. Even better, make them a personalized bag with a picture of their choosing or their name printed on canvas for an extra special carrier.

FIND BEAUTY IN EVERYTHING

Gnarly carrots and oddly swollen tomatoes never make it to the grocery store shelves but they’re the stars of the farmers’ market. Highlight the awkward beauty of heirloom vegetables to your kids. Their imaginations will see new forms to appreciate rather than just a misshaped potato. (There’s even some research that suggests less “perfect” produce contains more nutrients than their unblemished and conventionally grown counterparts.)

KEEP THE CYCLE

Farmers’ markets are often only open a few months of the year. During the winter, you can use an in-season produce chart to help your kids know what items can be found at the grocery store. They might be eating fewer tomatoes in January and more sweet potatoes in October, but that’s a wonderful way to learn about food. Eating with the seasons helps expose tiny palates to a wider array of nutrients and stay in tune with the natural food cycles.