“What?! That stuff is disgusting!” Already taller than me -- though I suppose it doesn’t take much -- red-haired, and freckled, he couldn’t have been more than fourteen.
I never expected visits from our customers to be among my favorite farm activities. I got into this for a love of the livestock, a passion for the growing. I stick with it when the going gets tough for the pride in producing food -- that, and the adorable piglets. But the people are a definite bonus, and the kids are often the most fun of all.
This boy had come to the farm with his mentors through Big Brothers and Big Sisters; he was wildly unabashed, and completely without inhibitions. Usually it’s the younger kids who ask the most probing questions, but this kid has gone down in farm history, not for his outburst, but for the presumptions that led up to it and his willingness to express them.
“Yeah, but you guys have great breakfasts, I bet. You’re farmers; you get eggs and bacon and...” he trailed off.
“Actually, we’re pretty rushed in the mornings.” I said, “We usually eat Kashi cereal.”
His mouth twisted, his brow furrowed, and he told me exactly what he thought of our morning fare: disgusting.
He counted off a list of his favorite cereals on his fingers. What we call “sugar cereals”, every single one; he was even more outraged when I winked and told him that my kids couldn’t feel like they were missing out on those because they’d never tasted them to begin with. “I’m a mean Mom, aren’t I?” I added jokingly.
“Yes.” he agreed, not nearly as amused.
When kids come to the farm I have three objectives:
- Connect Them to the Source of Their Food
- Send Them Home with a Greater Appreciation of Their Own Lives and Parents
- Open Their Minds to Trying New Foods
It’s a balancing act; allowing them to be as hands on as it takes to plant the seeds of a memory that will last a lifetime, while being mindful of safety both for the visitors and our stock; answering questions in ways that give them enough information, but not too much; and tailoring those answers to the attention span of the child who’s asking each time. But it’s also not as hard as it might seem.
Often, getting the kids in the driveway is the hardest part of all. Families are busy. Farm visits are special occasions that must be squeezed in between Saturday soccer games and weekend homework, but once here, most are eager to dive in. Their young minds are like sponges that soak up everything around.
It’s incredible watching the light in their eyes as they make the connection between chicken and egg and finally the scrambled dish they enjoy in the mornings; between pig and bacon, cow and milk, tomato and ketchup. As a farmer there’s nothing more rewarding than watching that boy -- like so many who have come before and after -- leave with an armful of eggs and a determination to have a better farm breakfast than the farmers do. As we continue to shape the way eaters and farmers interact in this modern food system I can't wait to see both more kids on the farm and more messages from farmers coming straight to kids in their homes, schools, and extracurricular activities. Because if I had to pick just one lesson I wanted to share with the world, it's that farm to fork relationships are key in developing healthy eating habits.
|Images provided by Diana Prichard|