It’s Saturday morning in Mills River, North Carolina and we’re standing outside the elementary school. School isn’t in session this weekend, of course, but kids are still learning at the farmers market.
Linda Brittain is an organizer of the Mills River Farmers Market. She tells us what kids can expect when they come with their families. “The first Saturday of every month we have a story hour and the Mills River Public Library uses the Growing Minds at Market materials and pulls a book and a craft and has it ready for us, so all we have to do is supply the volunteer that will do the story and craft with the kids as they come through the market,” she says.
Even when there’s not a special activity, there’s a lending library to help kids learn about farming and local food. “We do have a lending library that we’re going to expand this year. We started it last year with a grant from ASAP [USDA funding] and we received some additional funding this year to purchase more books. So when the kids come to market with their families, they can choose a good quality hardback book to take with them that deals with nutrition or growing foods, or animals—something that would tie into the farmers market theme—and they can check that book out, take it home, and bring it back at their next market visit,” she says.
Regina is volunteering at the kids table today as a face painter. Lots of kids want their faces painted as tigers or fairies, but there have been some local food requests as well. She’s even painted a child’s face to look like cheese!
She wants the kids to have fun while they’re learning. “I see all these younger kids come running around and looking at all the vegetables things and it’s really nice to watch them so inspired and awed by all this, like wow, this is so cool. It’s not like a food store, but there’s just a lot of people and it’s a really cool experience that they get out of it,” she says.
For many families, going to the farmers market is part of their weekly routine. Harry from Mills River is here with his two kids, ages five and two. They just got their faces painted, and now they’re shopping for apples with their mom.
“Oh yeah, they have a great time here, and they enjoy going to all the stands and seeing what everybody has to offer. I think part of having a healthy, strong community is having local vendors and having that relationship with everybody,” he says.
As kids get to know local farmers, they can also explore new foods—like heirloom tomatoes in the summer and different varieties of apples in the fall.
“We do like to do food tastings whenever possible with the kids so they can try new vegetables that they haven’t tried in the past. We’ve had the Henderson County Extension agent come through, also, with food tasting and recipes,” says Brittain.
Organizers have many goals for the market, like helping families of all backgrounds access fresh food, and creating a place where kids can come to learn with their parents and caregivers.
“I want them to know that this is a safe place to come, a fun place to come, that they’re going to get good food here and get good lovin’ here from everybody because we all love kids at this market,” she says.
Many farmers markets in Western North Carolina have live music and special activities for kids like food and gardening crafts, scavenger hunts, contests, or games. Learn about family-friendly special events by following farmers markets on social media, where some markets post updates with upcoming activities for kids.
Find information about all the markets in the region, and learn about the farming families that enhance our local food system, in ASAP’s Local Food Guide – www.appalachiangrown.org
Aired: May 13, 2019