Today's guest blogger is Heather Manning who lives in Bethlehem, Pa. with her partner and their sons, Lucas and Miles. Together they hike, paddle, run, swim, visit farms, and attend festivals throughout the Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley area. A version of this blog originally appeared on Kids Outdoors Philadelphia, a free online community from the Appalachian Mountain Club.
Farmers’ markets are springing up everywhere and it seems that almost every community has at least one. Some areas even have several markets on different nights of the week and in different locations, making it easier for families to fit into busy schedules. Most farmers’ markets are gearing up to open their outdoor markets for the season and it’s becoming more common to see smaller winter marts open during the winter and early spring months, so there is no better time to start planning them into your family activities.
We love going as a family to our community farmers’ markets and sometimes take trips to ones in the Philadelphia area (we live in the Lehigh Valley). The kids enjoy poking around, looking at all of the vibrantly colored produce, smelling all of the baked goods, chatting with the farmers and vendors, and enjoying all the delicious samples.
There are so many learning opportunities for kids at farmers’ markets. We talk as a family about where the food at the markets comes from, why it’s important to buy fresh and local foods, and the importance of community. Many farmers’ markets also have live music, arts and crafts, and other great kids’ activities and programming. Last year, we went to the Zucchini 500 at the Easton Farmers’ Market, where kids could pick out a zucchini to decorate and race. It was so much fun and we are looking forward to going again this year!
Here are some tips for heading to your local farmers’ market with kids.
1. Go hungry! We make it part of our excursion to eat a meal at our farmers’ market. Whether you get baked goods, produce, or pizza (yes pizza!), you can be sure that what you get to eat is locally grown and made.
2. Try something new. We encourage our kids to try something new every time we go. With all of the options, colors, smells, and variety of tastes who could we resist?
3. Talk to your local farmers. Our family has become familiar with several of the farmers and vendors at our markets and it’s great to be able to talk with them while we’re at the market. It helps kids make a connection to “real food,” and we’ve learned some new ways to prepare certain foods by talking to farmers!
4. Don’t forget your bags. Most markets do not supply bags for your purchases, so make sure to bring your own reusable shopping bags for all of your goodies.
5. Bring cash. More and more vendors accept credit and debit cards, but make sure to bring cash just in case.
6. Let your kids explore. Part of our enjoyment at the farmers’ market is watching our kids explore and have fun. There is room to let them wander a bit (safely and within my sight of course) and take in all that there is to offer at the market.
For more information about local farmers’ markets in the Philadelphia area, including those that accept SNAP and debit cards go to www.farmtocity.org or www.foodtrustmarkets.org. Additional suburban markets are listed at www.Localharvest.org.