The Annual Youth Farmers Market Field Trip at the Brevard County Farmers Market in Melbourne, Florida gives youth the opportunity about local produce, local vendors, and agriculture. In order to educate youth about where food comes from and to introduce youth to their local farmers, UF IFAS Extension Brevard County hosts an annual field trip for youth to explore the local farmers market.
Each year a theme helps bring the event together; in 2014 it was strawberries and in 2015 it was poultry. Youth are able to visit several stations and learn STEM (Science, Engineering, Technology, Mathematic) related concepts while exploring the market. Stations for the 2015 trip included:
- Omelet making: youth prepared an omelet using local fresh ingredients (peppers, onions, tomatoes).
- Egg drop: youth constructed a vehicle to keep their egg safe when it was dropped over 100 feet from the top of a fire truck ladder.
student making an omelet
Radish seed necklace: youth learned about the life cycle of a seed as they sowed a radish seed. The seed was placed into small bag they placed around their neck to wear.
- Poultry: youth learned about poultry, including chickens, ducks, and geese. They were able to learn the anatomy of the birds, how to handle the birds, and the difference between egg layers and broilers.
- Walk through the market: youth met with the farmers and vendors to sample produce and products and even got to pick items to take home. Take away items are funded through vendor support and local grants, such as, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). FDACS also supplied bags, books, and water bottles for youth to take home.
Freshly picked, in season produce is at its peak in flavor and nutrition.The trip to the market helps emphasize what the USDA has listed in the Ten Reasons to Shop at a Farmers Market. These include:
- Support your local farmers and economy.
- Fresh fruit and vegetables are full of antioxidants and phytonutrients.
- It’s a great way to get your kids involved.
- Supporting your local farmers market strengthens your community.
students constructing vehicles for egg drop
Farmers markets offer foods that align with MyPlate guidelines.
- Farmers often have recommendations for preparing their products.
- You can try a new fruit or vegetable!
- SNAP and WIC benefits are accepted at some farmers markets.
- Farmers markets are easy to find.
Of the ten reasons, number four and eight are emphasized by market programs like the Brevard Farmers Market, the Power of Produce (POP) Club, started at the Oregon City Farmers Market, and the Charlottesville City Market. Market programs have found that children become healthier eaters and not only try, but enjoy eating new foods when exposed to a farmers market. Visits to farmers markets allow youth to start understanding that fresh, local, and healthy foods are accessible to them even if they cannot grow their own. Markets can also help them understand when they visit the grocery store and see a “fresh from …” sticker, it means that item came from a local producer. Farmers markets can be a positive first step toward getting youth to eat healthier through their own initiatives in an effort to ultimately combat rising obesity rates.
Farmers market vendors are enthusiastic for youth to attend and look forward to the increased community awareness. It is an opportunity for them to share what they know and their livelihood while getting youth excited about eating healthier foods! To find out if your local farmers market(s) has/have any youth oriented programs, head to the USDA website or contact your local farmers market through your local extension office.
For more resources for featuring fresh vegetables click here!
Vanessa Spero-Swingle, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences