Kids Love Vegetables
It happens like clockwork each week at the farmers market.
“Mom, can we buy the purple one?” says a little head peaking over the table.
“No, honey, you wouldn’t like that,” says Mom.
Our farmer heart breaks each time. We want to desperately just hand it over for free because we know the big secret—kids do love fresh and local food.
Our family was not raised on a farm. My parents were transplanted to the farm at the age of 50 and my brother and I came along as reluctant teenagers. Both my brother and I married non-farmers and brought them back with us to the farm. I grew up believing green beans came from a can and my Mom thought beets were only eaten pickled and never fresh. Everyone believes since we live on a produce farm and grow Swiss chard year round we must be the healthiest eaters around, but the truth is we still struggle to put down the donuts, too.
That is, until we had four little farm girls enter our world that have challenged us and taught us how to eat from the land. My brother, Lee, and his wife, Lindsey, are the proud parents to the four biggest locavores we have ever known, and we do not deserve the credit. Olivia (8), Ella (7), Sophia (5) and Claire (3) have taught us exactly what happens when kids are raised on a produce farm from birth. Their story is different than most kids, and is an amazing insight in to what happens when your cultural norm is endless baskets of dirty carrots and left over rutabaga on the counter. Unlike even most Ohio farm kids whose parents raise commodity grains or livestock, these four open their backdoor to three-plus acres of broccoli plants, a few hundred kohlrabi and a puddle full of their “pet tadpoles.”
This past summer on the way to a family vacation they stopped at a drive-thru fast food restaurant. Lindsey yelled back asking for everyone’s orders. Olivia replied, “Ummmm…. Do they have microgreens?” Obviously, everyone has a leftover stash of microgreens in the fridge.
I have shared the picture of Ella trick-or-treating with her bucket of candy in one hand and her taking a huge bite out of the head of raw broccoli she stole from the market truck right before leaving. We’ve had moments we’ve asked if we could “treat” them to ice cream after market, cheerleading events or school musicals only to have them beg in the highest of voices for “cherry tomatoes” or “lettuce from the high tunnel!” I have more videos than my phone can hold of the girls asking us to record them having a “spinach eating contest” or some other random vegetable that most of us only eat to try and be healthy. To the girls, it is just normal.
They live amongst the vegetables and eat what they see. The girls have become farm advocates without realizing it, taking bags of cucumbers and extra carrots to share with friends during school lunch. Their schoolmates had never seen someone eat a cucumber like an apple, or eat a carrot with dirt still in the cracks, but when they tried it they, too, loved the flavor and begged the girls to bring more. So Lindsey packs extra vegetables and the girls share their goodies with anyone at the table.
The girls defiantly disagree with me that most Americans don’t live on farms and very few grow their own food. I showed them how most food comes from California or Central America, and 5-year-old Sophia simply said, “That’s not smart. It comes from Daddy.”
In just the past few months, there have been frantic dinner phone calls between the adults looking up recipes for rutabaga fries, or how to sauté beets and Swiss chard at the request of the 7 year old. In my experience parenting, I have noticed that when I finally step out of the way of my child she always surprises me and can do more than I ever expected.
The same is said for the parent protecting their child from the purple kohlrabi at market and reminding them, “you don’t like that.” Let’s give them the opportunity a hundred times over to love and revel in fresh, local food; to be the generation that doesn’t struggle to eat healthy and looks at kale as what they want to eat instead of what they should eat. Kids love vegetables, if we just get out of their way.