Recently, I connected with Jan Hoadley of slowmoneyfarm through a Twitter chat on food. It occurred to me that she would have an interesting perspective on getting kids interested in food by connecting them to its source. I was delighted when she accepted my request to send an article on this theme to share with all of you. Here it is; enjoy and share your opinions in comments below.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Vikas GarG

Getting kids to eat better can be tough. When my Godson visited this past summer he had a chance to go from consumer to participant in growing food. With age appropriate chores he helped move tubs of rabbit manure to layer in a renewed raised bed. He stated without hesitation moving “bunny poo” was his least favorite thing to do! But he also saw the results in mixing soil into the manure and the basil, bean and pea seeds that sprouted forth from the results.

He helped water peppers, dried rosemary and learned what different types of mint taste like. He chewed a leaf of stevia straight from the garden and appreciated the super sweet taste. He learned to harvest rose hips and what they are used for.

But he learned much more than that also. He learned to not take for granted the abundance of food at our grocery stores, whether it’s premium organic or just what one can afford. He learned chickens are not vegetarian when he held a worm up for me to see and a team of chickens closed in to snatch it from between his fingers! He learned to appreciate the chickens for the eggs that he collected, brought in and mixed up for French toast. He learned to cook eggs – with supervision – without worrying about doing it ‘wrong’.  And when he took it for granted he learned another lesson – just because we have plenty it’s not good to waste it. This was learned as he juggled three freshly collected eggs and watched all three break on the ground. He wasn’t too happy about the consequences of that but it’s something he likely won’t do again!

The concept of getting food from the garden or the chicken yard was foreign when he arrived, but when he left to go home he had a new appreciation of food that we so often take for granted. The work it takes to produce it took new meaning during a lesson with rosemary.

The rosemary bush he trimmed from is well established. He snipped a basket of stems, rinsed it off, arranged it in the dehydrator and adjusted it to the right temperature. Once dried he individually took the stems and stripped the leaves of rosemary to package. We talked about the price. “$10 for that?!” he said in disbelief as he looked at the package of rosemary. I asked him to ponder what his time was worth processing it, and the growing of it. Did he want to work all day for the price of a pizza? Or was this quality package of seasoning worth a fair price?

It brought not only an increased awareness of value but the choices we – and all consumers – make. He learned about the raising of rabbits with a new litter and the loss when a rabbit died. There was a chance to learn to make decisions and see the results of those decisions.

This can be reproduced anywhere. A small raised bed can be ornamental flowers or an ‘edible landscape’ that teaches as well as feeds. Many times children are more apt to try things when they see it grow and become food.

The connection to a food supply – even if just for one meal – can create an increased awareness about food. Once this is started, many children are naturally curious about “what else” is out there to learn.

Good food doesn’t have to be boring! From growing to processing to cooking it’s a chance to get kids involved! Groups like 4-H have been doing this for years, but it’s also done on farms across America.

Jan's Godson on the farm

My notes: Slow Money Farm offers you a chance to grow the garden you want. Unlike a CSA, you can pick and choose what you want them to grow for you in your garden spot. It is an interesting concept and very similar to something I have been independently thinking about for several years. One of the ideas I shared in a recent article to promote veggies was “why not establish community farms where people could rent a small space and grow veggies?” I am glad to learn that Slow Money Farm is doing something similar although I have not checked it out personally. I hope to learn more about them through Jan. In the meantime, go check out SlowMoneyFarm on Facebook.