As I dream of real summer weather, one of the things I look forward to most is picking strawberries with my little cousins at a pick-your-own farm near our family cabin up in Aitkin County. The first time we tried it, the kids were so excited we had to go back two times in one day and filled five ice cream gallon buckets with ruby red fruit, sweet and sun-warmed as we relished in harvesting that evening’s dessert.
Not every child gets to experience the wonder of connecting with our local food system in such a direct way, but this year’s issue of the Minnesota Grown Directory is here to help families make that connection.
Minnesota Grown is a partnership between the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and producers of specialty crops and livestock. Their annual directory of local producers is always a huge hit with our vibrant local foods community. This year’s issue, just published last week, lists nearly 1,000—a record number!—local farmers, markets and businesses where consumers can buy directly from the producer. It also boasts a strong family-friendly focus. IATP worked with Minnesota Grown to include information on Farm to Childcare programs, fun farm facts, kid-friendly activities like farm tours, and other techniques families with young children can use to engage with locally grown foods. The family-centered content is a great supplement to the detailed information on local producers the Minnesota Grown Directory always provides, and makes this year’s issue a wonderful resource for parents, teachers, childcare facilities and anyone interested in engaging with kids on local agriculture.
The partnership with Minnesota Grown was a natural fit for IATP. We have been working hard to connect young children with local foods by developing a model Farm to Childcare program in partnership with childcare provider New Horizon Academy. Reaching kids early to build a relationship with local agriculture sets the stage for healthy food choices that support our local food system down the road. Our pilot run of the program showed encouraging results, with parents reporting that children participating in program were more willing to try new foods and eager to talk about where those foods came from. IATP will be publishing our Farm to Childcare curriculum package later this summer. To get on the distribution list, please email me.
The weather may still be chillier than usual, but delicious spring greens, asparagus, morel mushrooms, green onions and more are reminders of the bounty of local produce soon to be available to Minnesota families. I am looking forward to summer strawberry days, and with help from the Minnesota Grown Directory, this summer more families and children than ever can get their hands dirty and support our local farmers.
Order free printed copies of the Minnesota Grown Directory on the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s website.
Photo: Summer and Antigone with an almost full bucket! (Photo by Erin McKee VanSlooten)