Farming and food go hand in hand. With farming comes a rhythm, harmony and an unfolding of the seasons. Nature has a rhythm, Mother Earth has a harmony and the seasons unfold, all giving us a wealth at our fingertips. Anticipating the first apple to ripen on a tree, cracking the first walnut, crunching the first carrot of the season , seeing a critter being born are all part of this wealth and the wonder of nature. Farming offers this right into our hands. It lets us access what Mother Earth has so freely given to us. We as adults must teach the children of the Earth how to take care of this wealth and how to keep this legacy going. You can call it making future farmers, or sustainable farming. I call it teaching children the joy of farming. This is what will keep small farms alive, this is what will let us continue to buy local produce, this is what will sustain community. Children need to be taught where their food comes from, they need to be taught the joy of farming. I hope to encourage parents to introduce children to farming in a simple, back to basics way.
Come Farm with Me!
I have been farming for over 10 years on a small two-and-a-half acre hobby farm. Introducing children to farming has brought me much joy. I believe children of all ages should be introduced to farming. Babies and toddlers can be read stories, and as children get older, and safety and hygiene is no longer such a risk, they can participate in other farm related activities. Older school children can attend programs offered on farms which allow them to participate in simple chores and garden work. Every family can have a garden regardless of their space.
Harmony on the Farm!
Children need to be taught how to interact with critters, the circle of life and why some things are done in a certain way. They need to be able to use their hands, their hearts and their minds to participate in harmony on the farm. It is natural for a child to want to chase, catch, cuddle and feed a critter, be it a kitten or a chicken; but exhausted, terrorized and overfed critters bring no harmony to the farm. There is more joy in blending in, working around the critters rather than chasing them down only to have them scratch, bite or kick because they did not want to be mauled.
Rhythm of the Seasons!
We human “beans” are rhythmical creatures. Our breathing, our heartbeat and many of our organs are rhythmic. The rhythm of the seasons is what influences life on the farm. Spring brings baby animals, planting and growth. Summer brings hard work, relaxing with family and critters, even some early nibbling. Autumn brings harvest and getting ready for winter by preserving and storing food. Winter brings gratitude for the bountiful abundance Mother Earth has given us, the anticipation of Spring’s arrival, and the planning for next year’s wealth. Giving children projects that they can see unfold and change as each season passes gives them a connection to their work and Mother Earth.
From Carrots to Critters!
Life has become easy for us – or has it? Here is an experiment to try with your family. For three days, journal the events that fill up your family’s days. On the fourth day, take 10 minutes at the start of the day and have your family just sit quietly in nature, doing nothing but breathing, listening and observing. Prepare for this – plan it on a convenient day, use the bathroom beforehand, get drinks and snacks out of the way. Have a timer set for 10 minutes during which no one talks or gets up. This will give you a glimpse of serenity. In the world of farming there are lots of these moments – times when you sit and observe – and other times, when you participate quietly. Pulling a carrot from the ground, holding an egg while the chick is pecking its way out, having a duckling snuggle in your hair, watching a chicken lay an egg then jump from the nest-box and squawk to tell the world, making a fresh salad from the garden, serving a meal made of farm fresh food. These are each what I call “a piece of Heaven”. I encourage families to visit local farms and teach children where food really comes from. There is a huge difference between fresh farm produce and supermarket produce. Support local farmers. Help keep the joy of farming alive.
Hay Bales and Pony Tales!
Along with reading farm stories, looking at pictures and singing farm songs, take the time to drive past a farm, talk to your children about what you see, visit a local farm and buy some fresh produce. There are many great books that show you how to make fun farm-related things like bean tents, sunflower mazes, funky birdhouse gourds, Easter egg goblin gourds, and sprouting potato eyes. Remember these simple rules: small hands need big seeds, keep projects age appropriate, things that sprout quickly make gardening more exciting, keep gardening pesticide free, encourage good critters and respect Mother Earth. Remember: harmony and joy are the two main ingredients to successful farming. Teaching children about growing food promotes the joy of farming and the joy of farming promotes future farmers.
MaryLou, her husband and teen son live on a 2.5 acre hobby farm with lots of critters.