Today I thought I would revisit a trick I used for years when my kids were young and just on the fringe of wanting to be involved in where their food came from. I was spending oodles of money at the farmers market each year for fresh veggies, herbs and such. Because I just don’t like to take care of giant veggie gardens, I was utilizing my local Farmer's Market. I'm sure many of you do the same. My kids were often remarking about how THEY were going to bring things to the Farmer's Market to sell and make soooo much money. And the idea was born to get my kids gardening, themselves.
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My kids started a small garden and hosted their own "Farmer's Market". Of course, only I (sometimes family) purchased any produce. That didn't matter...I spent A LOT and loved it. My kids grew gardens of produce and flowers and sell it back to me. Don’t get me wrong…I lost money because I bought the plants, materials, fun accessories (my 14 year old daughter loved the cement turtles, and garden gnomes, and roses, and…), and tools. AND I bought the produce or flowers back from them for totally inflated prices.
But I didn't mind one. single. bit. My kids worked for the money, they were outside, they were in the sunshine, they ATE those veggies with pride, they learned about different kinds of produce (thinking what Mom would buy), and they learned economics, supply and demand, and how to sucker their mom.
I get fresh produce, flowers, happy kids, healthy kids…less driving, less waste, and a beautiful yard. It’s a win, win, in my books!
I also found that I could reward them for awesome grades, extra kindness, chores, and more, with plants and garden materials. I mean, isn't that a mom's dream? The picture above is of Levi with a tomato plant he had earned after an especially hard class was completed with an A. Of course, I then had to pay for every tomato that came from that plant :). Eh, you win some.
Tips for a successful children's "Farmers Market":
- Start small
Often children get excited about something but when the reality of waiting sets in, they move on. For that reason don't invest in a lot of plants and materials until you know the idea is going to stick. Grab some plants that grow early in the spring, you KNOW you will want to purchase, and don't need terribly much space.
Recommendations: various herbs, spring flowers (if you are going to buy flowers), lettuce, spinach, peas, and green beans.
- Plant with interval or continual harvest in mind.
Don't grab plants that ALL require harvest in the fall. Those kids will give up by the time you get there. Instead, think of plants that have a continual harvest, and then try to plant at least one plant for every harvest season. This gives kids something to ALWAYS sell as well as something to tease you with and look forward to.
- Plant with care requirements in mind.
Some plants are just a pain to care for, no matter that you may want to purchase them. Those are not the plants to have children take care of. Stick with easy to care plants. Plant them in easy to care for containers and take the extra step to mulch and provide weed free solutions. You want this to be FUN and not overwhelming. Keep it easy, simple, and fun.
- Throw in something unexpected.
Allow them to buy a fun garden item, or gardening "clothes". Perhaps plant green beans around a teepee structure, or snow peas along a fence line. Ask for flowers, or salsa making supplies. Whatever you can think of that will give them a bit more to think about, strive for, and frankly...more cash.
- Remember the lesson in economics.
It's tempting to just think about the gardening aspect of a "Farmers Market", which is a great tool! But, don't overlook the lesson in economics their work will bring. Be fair, do NOT be tempted to pay far too high a price simply because they are children. I expected my children to bring me produce at quality to what I would get at the Farmers Market, packaged, and relatively clean in exchange for the prices at the Farmers Market. For special items I paid more, for surplus items I paid less. Just like in the real Farmers Market.
Suggested plants for a Children's Farmers Market:
- peas (plant these vertically, if possible)
- herbs of all kinds
- lettuce and spinach
- green beans (plant vertically, if possible)
- sunflowers (these are fun to plant in a row against a fence)
- strawberries (these take a few years to really take off)
- cabbage (these can grow to huge sizes and can be fun for kids)
- radishes (these grow quickly and quite easily)
- watermelon (a fall harvest but great fun for kids to see growing!)
- pumpkin (a fall harvest but kids love seeing them grow!)
- tomatoes (get several different varieties for the ultimate in harvest!)
- cucumbers (you can get tiny varieties as well as giant varieties)
- broccoli (easy to grow, short season, takes up little space)
And THEN, here are a few simple recipes to use that fresh produce!
Bacon Radish Salad
easy Spinach Pesto
Pumpkin Gingersnap Pie
semi-homemade Cabbage Pie
semi-homemade tomato tart
Watermelon Red Onion Salad
Strawberry Shortcake Scone