{Guest Post} A Farmer’s Daughter Rejects Her Veggies—And It’s a Good Sign

Hello friends! I know I haven't been posting much on here lately. (If you don't know why you obviously aren't on Facebook...) But I'm excited to introduce you to my friend Lindsay who is writing today's Guest Post. She and her family are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to help get their organic farm started in Montana! They are a wonderful, hard-working, beautiful family. I know you will enjoy this thought-provoking post from Lindsay!

A Farmer’s Daughter Rejects Her Veggies—And It’s a Good Sign

By Lindsay Jordan

One of my greatest accomplishments as a parent has been getting my toddler to eat fresh vegetables.  Lua loves to forage in my summer gardens.  Naturally, she relishes the sweetness of almost every fruit you can name.  She has packed away countless pods of snap peas, even long after they had turned too starchy for my liking.  She has even delighted in the acidic bite of sweet peppers, and the somewhat bitter taste of raw kale—I had to belly laugh when she started eating it straight off the plant, a quirk that persisted throughout last summer.

I remember thinking that I had preemptively won the battle to avoid raising the dreaded “picky eater.”

Then November came.  The availability of fresh local produce was waning rapidly, and our garden was already frozen over.  But I was prepared—as a local food veteran, I already frozen and canned as many veggies and fruits as I could get my hands on.  Our chest freezer was stocked with corn, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, and peppers, along with a plethora of Oregon’s summer fruit selection.  We were ready for a winter of eating local produce.

When the time came for one of our first autumn dinners, I prepared one of our family favorites, veggie stir-fry with rice and scrambled eggs.  My husband and I delighted in our mostly local spread, but by the time Lua was ready to excuse herself, a soggy pile of veggies remained on her plate.  She stubbornly refused my attempts to coax her into finishing the rest of her meal.  

I had a new problem on my hands.
My previous assumption—that I had prevented raising a picky eater—was suddenly proved wrong.  Maybe Lua just didn’t like the taste of veggies that had been frozen and cooked; perhaps she preferred raw and fresh veggies.  Well, I thought, I’m not going to impose my beliefs on my kid and cause her nutritional needs to suffer.  So I headed to the supermarket to compromise my values for the sake of my child’s health.

I did what I could to at least select regionally grown produce, which in most of the western United States means buying produce grown in California.  I begrudgingly paid almost $7 for a pound of organic snap peas from central California.  They had traveled over 500 miles to reach our table.  But it would be worth it if it meant Lua would enjoy eating vegetables during the winter months.  I arrived home and prepared a snack plate for her—a medley including the last of our Oregon-grown carrots, several apple slices, and the California peas.  

After 20 minutes I saw that she had happily munched on the carrots and apples, but had largely ignored the peas; she had taken just one bite from a pod and spit it back on her plate.  

“Do you like your peas?” I asked.  

She replied, “No.”  No was a favorite word at the time, so I tried again, just to be sure. 

I said, “What if we take a pea out of the pod?”  

I cracked open a pod and gave her a single pea.  She put it in her mouth and grimaced before taking it out and handing it back to me while shaking her head.  

“All done!” she said.  

I tried again and again with other regionally grown veggies, and on occasion she gave my frozen-then-cooked veggies another chance.  But her preference was clear.  I was astonished to learn that my daughter, just shy of two years old, appeared to be a little locavore—minus the political opinions.

Why It’s a Good Sign to This Mother and Farmer

I was struck by the novelty that even a toddler could appreciate the difference in taste and quality between freshly harvested produce from those that had been shipped hundreds of miles.  Although it threw a wrench into my seasonal meal planning for the family, I took it as a sign that exposing Lua to gardening at a young age had already started encouraging her to develop healthy eating habits that are likely to last a lifetime.

Many people practicing the locavore lifestyle also notice the difference in quality of fresh vs. packed and shipped produce.  Produce can lose a significant amount of nutritional value the longer it sits in a truck and then a supermarket shelf (source).  And the health benefits of eating fresh produce and gardening at a young age doesn’t stop at nutritional value.  

A holistic approach to health and wellness

Not only is fresh produce often nutritionally superior to its well-travelled counterparts, but engaging kids in gardening and farming helps develop a wealth of positive habits that resurface later in life.

Some of the healthy habits are obvious, like increasing kids’ fruit and veggie consumption, and motivating them to spend time outside and exercise (sourcesource).  Lifestyle habits like these also provide benefits later in life, including decreased risk of diseases such as type II diabetes and heart disease (source).  

Children who spend time in chemical-free fields reap these benefits without risking exposure to harmful pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.  Even trace amounts of these chemicals can impact small bodies over a long period of time, and more dramatically than in adults (sourcesource).  

Using Natural Curiosity to Develop Learning and Social Skills

Sustainable farming and gardening inspires children to ask questions and develop critical thinking skills (source).  Children are also more likely to care about their neighborhoods and communities as a whole when they see gardening and farming in action and take part in the process—this hands-on approach to learning builds children’s confidence and self-esteem (sourcesource).

When Access to Gardening is Limited

Growing a garden is not the only way for kids to benefit from the rewards of sustainable agriculture.  Luckily, there are many other ways to support your local agriculture movement and community of farmers, even if you lack the time or space to keep a garden of your own.  These include but are not limited to the following:

Community garden plots and patio gardens—a great option for those who lack garden space.  

U-pick options are now available at many farms.

Foraging for wild foods* in your locale is an adventurous alternative to U-pick harvesting.

(*Please note that it is very important to be able to properly distinguish wild foods that are safe to eat from those that may be poisonous.  Please check with your local forest service ranger district or native plant society chapter for more information on foraging for wild foods.)

School garden programs have proved to be very effective ways for kids to reap the benefits of gardening.  

Farmer’s markets, CSA programs, and buying locally grown produce are all great ways to support your local community of farmers.  Regular visits to your local farmer’s markets are especially valuable for kids to learn about the source of their food and meet the people who grow it.

We Farmers Love to See Kids Getting Involved

Sustainable growers like me are often very vocal advocates for sustainable farm programs and policies so we can grow our own businesses and ensure that future generations can take part in the transformative experience of growing and eating locally.  We couldn’t make a living without the participation of our community members, especially the little ones.  So I want to thank you for taking the time to think about the significance of your actions to support sustainable agriculture—not just as a consumer but also as a thoughtful parent.

​Lindsay Jordan
 is a 28-year old sustainable farmer with eight years of experience growing vegetables, flowers, and fruit.  Her family recently moved to Stevensville, Montana, to start their own micro-farm, and they are running a fundraising campaign on kickstarter.com for their startup, Brave Bear Farm.  The campaign runs from February 2nd-March 4th, 2016.  

You can help one more sustainable farm come to life by backing their project or sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, or your own blog if you have one. Click here to learn more.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments make me oh so happy! Feel free to comment away. I'd love to hear what's on your mind