“Where does your body get its energy?”
“Your body runs on food…”
“Who knows where we get protein?” asked the guest at the front of the room.
“Protein bars,” answered the anxious 3rd grader holding up his hand!
“Well, that’s a processed food,” retired teacher Marjorie Ford answered patiently. The East Tennessee farmer went on to explain how dairy is a protein source that can end up in those protein bars in the form of whey. Ford also spent lots of time chatting with schoolchildren about their favorite vegetables and fruits, delighting to hear that a few of the children grow a garden with their families at home and fewer still live on farms themselves.
Ford visited classrooms in the Oak Ridge school system in East Tennessee as part of community outreach for the East Tennessee Farm Markets. She explained that she grows everything from okra and bell peppers to kale, spinach and corn on the cob on Tillman Rabbit Farm in Corryton. “The only thing you have to wash off of my vegetables is dirt,” she explained to one class about her organic and sustainable methods under the Certified Naturally Grown certification. As we’ve explained previously on the Flour Sack Mama blog, CNG is often a good option for small growers who can’t afford the extra expense of the USDA Organic paperwork. Most importantly, Ford told the children, you can talk with farmers at the market about how their food was grown.
Ford gave each child a bush bean to plant and take home for their own gardens. She even brought stickers complete with care instructions, to help children and parents with gardening. The educational visit that fit into curriculum requirements was made possible by the office of Coordinated School Health, where coordinator Jennifer Laurendine is promoting community-wide healthy habits that can also support the learning process for students. Parents volunteered to assist, and teachers carved out 30-minute time slots during the school day.
Why teach children to grow their own garden and invite the to the local farmers market? Fresh, local food! “Did you know that every day a vegetable or fruit sits on a grocery store shelf, it loses about 10% of its nutrients? You want to try to eat the freshest fruits and vegetables that you can,” market representative Rebecca Williams explained to the students in each classroom. Most farmers pick foods before dawn on the morning of a local market, delivering nutrients along with freshness and eye appeal.
The women handed out dollar-off coupons for families to use at the Oak Ridge Farmers Market and invited them to Kids Day at the market the following Saturday. The market opens at 8 am on Saturdays, with Kids Day activities running from 9 am to 11:30 am, and the market closing at noon. What happened when I handed my kids $5 each and turned them loose at the market? Find out here.
Kids Day activities on May 23 will include a scavenger hunt, live music, a My Plate craft hosted by the Flour Sack Mama and Clean Couponing blogs, and a cooking demonstration. The market is open at historic Jackson Square in this Knoxville suburb each Saturday from 8 to noon and Wednesday from 3 to 6 pm until late fall.
If you live in the East Tennessee area and are interested in an educational visit from a farmer, you can contact info@EastTnFarmMarkets.org.