I’ve realized growing food as a family is a great source of nourishment but it’s become clear that the nourishment is well beyond the dinner table. The “farming” has not become extra chores, it is something that has added to our family values and the way we parent.
It was our goal to provide fresh, good-tasting food for our children and we realized that it’s a lot cheaper to grow our own. We grow tomatoes, smash them in a pot, and create our own spaghetti sauce. We pack it with vegetables and herbs from our own garden instead of the high-sugar store-bought version. Our bank account is happy but the taste, health, and experience is far more rich from cracking open jars of that super sauce. This is incredibly rewarding.
Cage-free, pastured eggs are not very cheap therefore chickens are an obvious choice too. Chickens are also great pest control and fun to watch and feed table scraps to.
But these aren’t the only reason we do what we do, we aren’t just trying to save money on good food. We work hard and spend a lot of time on all these things because we want to pass along ideas. We want our children to know that the spaghetti sauce they are having for dinner started with the seed they planted in February. They know how to process a tomato for a sauce and have helped stir many simmering pots on the stove top.
We want our children to value hard work that produces something that nourishes their bodies. We want them to experience that sense of accomplishment and pride that comes with finishing a task. We want our children to learn skills that will
stick with them for a lifetime. We want them to learn patience, how to handle mistakes and disappointments, how to enjoy being outside and slowing life down.
My 19-month-old has quickly learned the fine art of picking a strawberry. He finds the red ones and can pick them without uprooting the plant and then remove the green stem parts before popping them in his mouth. We literally can’t keep him away from the strawberry patch.
If you have never tasted a fresh-picked strawberry, you must. I’m pretty sure I can now taste the chemicals on the hard, barely-ripe store-bought strawberries.
Last week my daughter helped me plant some broccoli and cauliflower. She knows how to carefully place a seedling into the hole we dug and then carefully scoop dirt in around the roots and press down around the base of the plant to firm the soil. She knows that a new transplant needs water.
Sometimes you feel like your kids aren’t really soaking in what’s going on around them. And then they surprise you!
Hunter’s school has a focus on environmental studies and leadership. They had recently been studying plants and animals and last week took a field trip to our yard to observe the chickens and gardens!
Hunter proudly led his classmates from garden to garden pointing out the different plants. He explained the life cycle of a strawberry plant. The class observed how the tendrils of the pea plants were grabbing onto the trellis. His classmates clamored to try the different colors of lettuce. Kids who would have never eaten a salad in the lunchroom were excited to eat these green and purple speckled leaves magically emerging from the ground.
I was so proud of him and realized how much he really has learned while gardening at home. Involving the kids in so much that we do means that everything takes twice as long and there are more mistakes and messes but we try to remember there is an important purpose to it all.
There is often an assumption that this “Suburban Farm” takes a lot of time. Well, it really doesn’t. A little bit here and there adds up to the harvest. If it seems overwhelming, start small. What would you love the grow? Whatever that is….plant! Put a pot or garden by your front door so every time you walk by you can see that overnight weed that popped up or the cracked dry soil in need of water. Soon you’ll find yourself excited by rich black soil and worms will become your best friend. I promise.
Suburban farming is easy when we put it along our daily paths. A pick, snip, or dig along the season brings the harvest.