1. How to count money
While it’s true that a growing number of farmers accept credit card payments, cash is still the currency of choice at many farmers markets. A visit to such a market is thus an ideal opportunity to practice counting money with your child. Try asking questions like, “If cucumbers are $.50 each, how many quarters will we need to buy three?”
2. How to tell what foods are in season
Many seasonal foods, like asparagus and strawberries, are available year round in supermarkets. This can obscure the cycles of the natural world. The next time you shop at a farmers market with your student, take note of what foods are available when. And remember to try the produce; seasonal foods are often more flavorful!
3. How to describe plant life
Farmers markets are rich sources of science lessons. One such lesson is how plants grow. For instance, your child may be surprised to learn that carrots grow underground if she is used to purchasing them without their greens. You can also discuss life cycle stages with a plant like the onion, which can be bought as a young shoot (i.e. a green onion) or a mature bulb.
4. How to ask insightful questions
The ability to ask insightful questions is key in nearly every academic subject. And questions abound at the farmers market. As you peruse each stand, your student may be confused or uncertain about certain aspects of the food. When she is, prompt her to ask questions of the farmers. An inquiry like,
“Why do these carrots look different?” can dramatically expand her understanding of subjects like heirloom seeds and genetic variation.
5. How to support (and discover) your community
Most farmers markets feature farms within a 50-100 mile vicinity. They both depend on and enrich the surrounding community… your community. When you patronize these vendors, explain to your child how your support contributes to the farmers’ livelihood, as well as how their hard work betters your own existence.
6. How to live sustainably
The importance of sustainable living has never been more evident than it is today. From organic farming techniques to decreased reliance on fossil fuels, farmers markets can introduce your student to a variety of ways to protect Mother Earth. Even if your knowledge of permaculture or biodynamic agriculture is limited, don’t fret, just ask your local farmers!
7. How to eat well
Did you know that purple vegetables often contain high levels of anthocyanin (an antioxidant)? Not only are they good for you, they’re fun! It’s often easier to remember to eat fruits and vegetables when doing so is interesting, so allow your child to choose some of the items that you buy. She may discover a new love of blood oranges, kale or white carrots. The blue sky is the limit!