Taking the Farmers’ Market Experience to Schools

Guest post by Maggie Morrison, Oyster River School District Sustainability Coordinator

There is an adage that you learn the many ways to navigate being an adult in kindergarten.  With a precious dollar gripped in their fists, 5 and 6 year-olds had a chance to visit a mini indoor farmers market at Mast Way Elementary School, in Lee.   Each of the four kindergarten classes got an introduction of the ways to visit a farmer’s market and purchase vegetables, fruit and flowers grown on local farms.   Four Durham and Lee farmers gave the children an opportunity to visit tables displayed with orange pumpkins, multicolored carrots, red crisp apples, shiny green and red peppers. Farmers from Teece, Do-Be-Doo, Pinewood Yankee and Tuckaway welcomed students as each classroom took turns visiting the market.  Now in its third year, this farmers market experience marks the end of a unit of study on farming and where your food comes from. New this year was a tasting table sponsored by Seacoast Eat Local. Unusual vegetables to a 5 year-old palate were offered by Shelly Smith, SEL program coordinator as an opportunity to be brave and try something new.  Students received a coveted sticker if they tried a bite of a watermelon radish, a slice of a crunchy kohlrabi, or a pea shoot.

Weeks earlier, children experienced the first field trip of their academic years by visiting Tuckaway Farm in Lee, NH.  Students walked up the road lined with farm equipment and the last vestiges of the farms’ crops. Students eagerly helped to shuck corn and beans while learning all about the importance of these “three sisters” crops used in indigenous farming.   A horse drawn wagon ride took them to a potato field where they got a chance to dig in the dirt to discover the round yellow orb of a German Butterball potato.

Back in school, Oyster River’s Sustainability Coordinator, Maggie Morrison ask if the students were farmers, only a few hands flew up.  “You’re all farmers!” Morrison enthusiastically explained. “On your visit to Tuckaway, you did the harvest work of the farmer.” Although simple in explanation, these experiences are what kindergarten teacher, Mary Ellen Webb hopes will take root as these students grow up.   “This experience will help a young generation of students become comfortable with visiting local farmers markets. We’re hoping that students will encourage their parents to visit local markets and support local agriculture.” As the days get shorter into the winter months, if one child’s visit to a local farm and farmers’ market has a lasting memory and transforms later to an interest in farming or a lifelong habit of supporting local agriculture, it will be a visit well spent.

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