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Farmyard Feasts: Cooking with Kids Using Local, Seasonal Produce

June 26, 2024

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Farmyard Feasts: Cooking with Kids Using Local, Seasonal Produce

Connecting Kids to the Roots of Their Food

As a mom on a never-ending quest to get my kids excited about healthy eating, I’ve found that there’s nothing quite like a hands-on experience on a local farm to really drive the message home. That’s why, last year, I organized a field trip for my children and a few of their friends to the Steamboat Island Goat Farm – and let me tell you, it was a game-changer.

Immersing Ourselves in Farm Life

When we pulled up to the picturesque farm, nestled just 25 minutes northwest of downtown Olympia, the kids were practically bouncing out of the car. As soon as we stepped onto the property, they were immediately captivated by the sights, sounds, and smells of farm life. Rows of lush trees, a charming farmhouse, and happy-go-lucky dogs greeted us, setting the stage for an unforgettable adventure.

The real excitement began when the owner, Jason Drew, welcomed us and started the tour. The kids were enthralled as he introduced us to the resident goats, showing us how he milks them twice daily to produce the farm’s delectable cheese. They eagerly reached out to feed the goats handfuls of grass, giggling as the animals playfully nibbled at their sleeves and pant legs.

Next, we explored the milk house and cheese-making room, where Jason patiently answered our endless questions about the cheesemaking process. The kids were fascinated, soaking up every bit of information like little sponges. Then, it was off to meet the farm’s resident buck, whose impressive size compared to the females had us all in awe.

The tour concluded with a visit to the barn housing the baby goats, where the kids went wild with excitement. They couldn’t get enough of petting, holding, and even getting gently nibbled by the adorable kids. I’m pretty sure I heard more than one child declare that they wanted to take a baby goat home!

Though we weren’t able to actually participate in the hands-on aspects of cheesemaking due to health and safety regulations, Jason’s thorough explanations and our intimate connection with the animals made the experience incredibly valuable. The kids left the farm with a newfound appreciation for where their food comes from and the hard work that goes into producing it. And I, for one, was inspired to try my hand at making my own goat cheese at home.

Homemade Herbed Goat Cheese

Armed with a recipe and some tips from Jason, I set out to recreate the tantalizing goat cheese I had tasted on the farm. I sourced some fresh goat milk from Rocky Run Farm in Napavine, Washington, and gathered a few simple ingredients like lemon, butter muslin, and an assortment of herbs from my garden.

The process turned out to be much easier than I had anticipated. In under three hours, I had transformed the creamy goat milk into a delectable herbed chevre, perfect for spreading on warm baguettes or serving as a dip with crunchy vegetables. The key, as Jason had explained, was in the separation of the curds from the whey – a simple step using lemon juice as the acidic separator.

As I savored that first bite of my homemade creation, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride and connection to the farm we had visited. The kids were equally thrilled, eagerly dipping their bread into the flavorful cheese and marveling at the fact that they were enjoying the fruits of our labor. It was a moment that crystallized the importance of teaching children where their food comes from and how it’s made.

Cooking with Seasonal Produce: A Culinary Adventure

With a newfound appreciation for local, seasonal ingredients, I started exploring ways to incorporate them into our family’s meals. The Thornapple Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) service became an invaluable resource, delivering a weekly bounty of fresh, sustainably grown produce right to our doorstep.

Embracing the Harvest

Each week, as we unpacked our CSA box, the kids would eagerly dive in, examining the vibrant fruits and vegetables and making guesses about what we might create with them. They were always excited to try new things, from the crisp, juicy radishes to the tender leafy greens.

One of our favorite activities was to turn the weekly haul into a culinary adventure, with the kids taking an active role in the kitchen. We’d start by laying out all the ingredients and challenging them to come up with creative recipe ideas. Their imaginations would run wild, and soon we’d be whipping up everything from rainbow veggie stir-fries to homemade tomato soup.

Learning through Play

Engaging the kids in the cooking process has been a game-changer for us. Not only does it encourage them to try new foods, but it also teaches them valuable skills like measuring, chopping, and food safety. We’ve found that the more hands-on they can be, the more invested they become in the final dish.

One of our go-to methods is to set up a “veggie station” where the kids can practice their fine motor skills by tearing, snipping, and arranging the produce in creative ways. They love being able to “play with their food” and are always eager to show off their culinary masterpieces.

Celebrating the Seasons

As we’ve delved deeper into the world of seasonal cooking, the kids have gained a newfound appreciation for the rhythms of nature. They’ve learned that certain fruits and veggies thrive at different times of the year, and they eagerly await the arrival of their favorites, like juicy summer tomatoes or crisp autumn apples.

We’ve made it a tradition to celebrate each new season with a special meal or cooking project. In the spring, we might whip up a vibrant asparagus frittata or a refreshing strawberry salad. As the weather cools, we turn to hearty root vegetables and warming soups. And throughout it all, the kids are right there with us, offering suggestions, lending a hand, and savoring every bite.

Fostering a Love of Healthy Eating

Watching my children’s enthusiasm for local, seasonal produce has been one of the most rewarding aspects of our farm-to-table journey. What started as a simple field trip has blossomed into a deep appreciation for the origins of our food and a genuine excitement about healthy eating.

Empowering through Knowledge

By immersing our kids in the world of sustainable agriculture, we’ve given them a powerful tool: knowledge. They now understand the hard work and care that goes into growing the food we eat, and they’re eager to learn more. Whenever we visit the farmers market or unpack our CSA box, they’re full of questions about the different varieties, the growing methods, and the stories behind the farm.

This newfound knowledge has had a profound impact on their relationship with food. They’re no longer passive consumers, but active participants in the process. They take pride in their ability to identify different produce and share what they’ve learned with friends and family.

Cultivating Culinary Confidence

But perhaps the most remarkable change we’ve seen is in the kids’ confidence and enthusiasm in the kitchen. They now see themselves as budding chefs, eager to experiment with new recipes and techniques. Whether they’re chopping vegetables, measuring ingredients, or assembling a colorful plate, they approach each task with a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

This hands-on involvement has not only made them more willing to try new foods, but it’s also fostered a deeper appreciation for the art of cooking. They take ownership over the meals we create, and they’re always excited to share their creations with family and friends.

Building Lifelong Healthy Habits

As we continue on this journey of seasonal cooking and farm-fresh adventures, I’m confident that we’re laying the foundation for a lifetime of healthy eating habits. By making the process of food production and preparation fun and engaging, we’re instilling in our children a deep respect for the nourishment that comes from the earth.

And who knows? Maybe one day, we’ll have a little farmer or chef in the making. But for now, I’m just grateful for the memories we’re creating and the deep connection we’re forging with our local food system. After all, there’s nothing quite like a farmyard feast to bring a family together.

About Us

Thornapple CSA: A community-driven initiative championing sustainable agriculture. We connect members with fresh, organic produce, celebrating the bond between land and community.

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