Parenting Green: Learning & Connecting Through Locally Grown Food
The Language of Local Food
In celebration of the harvest time, we spend a lot of time as a family eating. And it’s good eating. Super fresh and delicious plums like you’ve never had from the supermarket in the winter, delicious corn that pops right off the cob (and lets not forget about the butter and salt, that’s super delicious too), cucumbers so crisp and refreshing it almost replaces the need to shower, and soon to be soups of fall squashes put to puree.
Creating an association with eating that starts with where our food is grown, is a certain way of instilling a language around vibrant and healthy living. Weather you only have room for pots of veggies growing on your patio, or you can dedicate a spot in your yard for a garden, or even if none of those apply to your family’s ability to integrate growing food at home, taking regular visits to a farm can certainly help create that context. Just as we pick up our language, as infants being immersed in the spoken word, so is true of the rest of the information we store, especially around food choices and where we get it…
One year my family planted brussels sprouts (my taste buds still are not convinced…perhaps I should try butter and salt). We watched this plant grow and grow and it was almost fall and nothing had appeared at the top of the plant yet. I was expecting buds within the leaves at the top of the plant much like a cabbage or broccoli grows. Only later did we discover the whole time these little buds were being made along the length of the stalk beneath the foliage. It was so cool! So cool, that I had to try eating them again. Even this summer when our family was eating broccoli as we do many times throughout the year, sometimes with complaint, sometimes with bribery, there was a look of pleasure that came over my daughter’s face when I affirmed her question about if this was ‘our’ broccoli from our garden. It had suddenly made her bite taste better.
We eat a good deal of organic food at our table, and as my kids have gotten older and conversations have come up around some of the restrictions, preferences, and limitations we’ve placed around our food choices, we’ve had to figure out how to have the discussion around why eating organic is better for us without getting them concerned, fearful, or involved in ideas beyond their age comprehension. I don’t know if we’ve handled it perfectly, and we often try to keep it simple without too much elaboration, and thinking back it was hard to remember exactly how we framed it.
There is a great article called “Appetite for Change: Teaching Kids About Organics & Gardening” from the Organic Consumers Association. The teacher who wrote the piece asked his students “Why buy organic” and some of the responses that resonated with me were around how no pesticides are used and that pesticides aren’t good for you, the people who harvest the food, the bugs, worms, nutrients, and soil health, and our water. The other point was that organic food tastes better, to which the teacher asked if it was fact or an opinion. I couldn’t help but think of that photo I’ve seen of the two cobs of corn side by side. One labeled organic, the other GMO. The organic one was eaten down to the core by squirrels and the other one stood nearly untouched.
This weekend my family is going to round out our harvest experience with a community service project with Hilltown Families and Whole Foods Market at Atlas Farm in Deerfield, where we’ll glean the extra organic veggies from the farm left in the fields after the main harvests to donate to the Food Bank of Western MA. I think we’re going to glean a lot more than just vegetables that day. My hope is to continue to percolate my family’s connection to our food sources in hopes to build a connection that gets priority for its future stability.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Angie Gregory settled in the Western MA 6 years ago after many years of traveling the country. She lives in Northampton, MA with her husband and three kids and is an avid gardener and studies herbal medicine. She has worked in the community fostering projects like Grow Food Northampton and started Mother Herb Diaper Service out of her home after the birth of her second child. Her business is now a cooperative venture and has relocated to Holyoke, MA under the name of Simple Diaper & Linen.
[Photo credit: (ccl) Kevin O’Mara]