Thursday, June 10, 2010

Who Grows Your Food? Our Field Trip to the Family Table Farm

This has been quite an exciting week! Yesterday, we received our first Community Supported Agriculture share from The Family Table Farm. The Family Table Farm is a small, family-owned market garden that grows a wide array of delicious, naturally grown, produce just west of Longmont. As part of our partnership with the farm, the children will be recieving a weekly share of fresh, seasonal produce and using it to prepare simple dishes.

To kick off the program, and to teach the children about where their food was coming from and how it is grown, the children spent the morning visiting the farm.

For many of the children, the field trip was their first opportunity to ride a school bus. Our bus driver, Laura, pulled up to the gate and found a throng of excited children, literally beside themselves with excitement. Nevertheless, the children demonstrated remarkable self restraint and politeness- they walked into the bus in an orderly line, helped each other find seats and put on their restraints, and chatted quietly. When Laura asked them to be very quiet while she listened for trains at the railroad crossing, I swear you could have heard a pin drop.

When we reached the farm, we were greeted by our gracious hosts, Mike and Lisel Record, and their lovely children. Several of the children whose parents had also purchased CSA shares from the farm, excitedly shared that they had eaten food from the farm last night for dinner! One boy stated that his family's entire meal had come from the farm and another little girl kept jumping up and down saying "I like your radishes too!" Things were off to a good start! We began with a tour of Lone Hawk Farm. The children got to see chickens, turkeys, and a peacock. They hunted for eggs and learned about what chickens eat.

Then, the children were introduced to the horses. The children were visibly amazed by their stature, friendliness, and...

the climbing possibilities presented by their fence!

The excitement continued to build as "Farmer Mike" allowed the children to feed the goats.

They were visibly interested in the animals and thrilled to feed them, but perhaps even more exciting was the barn in which the hay bales were stored. The giddy children went racing across the field as if being pulled by a powerful, but invisible, force.

It turns out that that there are many uses for hay bales (food for grazing livestock, mulch for plants, and entertainment for preschool children) and that our thoughtful hosts were well acquainted with their many virtues.

After the children had successfully scaled the mountain of hay bales, they were treated to an introduction to farm machinery where they got to sit on the tractors and pretend to drive. At least three of the children remarked to Farmer Mike that they intended to drive tractors when they grow up.

After prying the children off of the tractors, we went for a walk through the pasture. They really enjoyed the walk. The children ambled through the fields (adorably, many chose to walk hand in hand with their hosts). Many of them saw their first cattails and they found a turtle, a crayfish, and some particularly lovely walking sticks.

When they reached the end of the mowed path, an amazing surprise awaited them. Farmer Mike had attached a cart to the tractor so that the children could have a ride!

The children rode around looking at the vegetables and learning about the produce grown by the farm. After a tour, the children sampled some celery leaves and Mike allowed the children to harvest turnips from one of the beds. The children absolutely adored plucking them out of the ground!

For the vast majority of children, this was their first experience with turnips; however, despite the characterization of young children as being reluctant to try new vegetables, no one left the bed empty handed and I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that many of them left the bed with greedy little fistfuls of waxen orbs!

Then they piled back into the cart for a ride to the washing station!

In one of the more comical moments, Farmer Mike taught the children how to carefully clean their vegetables (the vast majority of the children thought "cleaning" consisted of merely holding the vegetable under running water)... I am sensing a Practical Life lesson here!

Turns out, the Record family grows some particularly tasty turnips! The children were absolutely delighted with the delicate flavor and crunch of their pearly little taproots.

All to soon, the trip was over and it was time for the exhausted children to pile back into the bus for the ride back to school. Nearly a quarter of them fell asleep in the bus before we reached the school (with dreams of busses and tractors in their heads, no doubt!). The bus driver confided that she was quite surprised to see children happily munching on raw turnips on the bus (one little boy even ate the greens!). "I've never seen children eating raw turnips," she remarked; indeed, it is amazing what they will eat when they get to harvest it by themselves!

Honestly, my hope is that the children remember this experience and that it helps them to have a better appreciation for where food comes from and for the hardworking people who grow it. I hope that it helps them to develop a more sophisticated palate, a willingness to try new foods, and helps them to acquire nutritional habits that support their health and well being. I would love to think that when they grow up they will have a positive association with local farms and that they too will want to "have a farmer" (in the same way that people have a doctor or a dentist) and to buy locally produced, seasonal food from passionate family farmers like the Record family. But for tonight, the only things that seem certain to me are that the children had an experience that they will be talking about for months to come, that they think "Farmer Mike" is just about the coolest guy on the face of the earth, and that more than one of them goes to sleep tonight dreaming about growing up and becoming a farmer.

For that we offer our greatest thanks and gratitude to the entire Record family. Thank you for making this trip the absolute highlight of the summer and the most exciting field trip ever. You are all very special people! Thank you for everything you do!

For more information about the great people and produce at the Family Table Farm, please visit their website at:! It's not too late to enjoy their fresh, naturally grown vegetables! Visit their innovative online farm stand!

Our thanks also to our bus driver, Laura Emmons, to St. Vrain Valley School District Busses and Transportation, and to Kristin and Tom Lopez of Lone Hawk Farm, a very beautiful wedding and special events location, for sharing your farm with us:

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