by Alyssa Delle Palme
In an effort to hit the Health Reset button this year, I began to ll my family’s dinner plates with whole foods including colourful fruits and vegetables and quality cuts of meat. All processed foods were eliminated and the daily caramel latte I drank for a midday boost was replaced with a locally made green tea kombucha. In the midst of my menu makeover, I decided it was important to help my children understand where their food comes from, so I joined a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group.
Many farms in the Ottawa area now offer locally grown, sometimes organic, foods by subscription. Some CSAs also offer tours of their farms to connect their members to where the food is grown. After some research, I decided to purchase a “share” of Ekoroot Farm and my family began to receive baskets of fresh, seasonal produce.
Ekoroot operator Melanie McLaughlin says her farm strives to preserve agricultural heritage by practicing organic and sustainable growing methods.
“When you visit our farm, you get to see and experience where and how we grow our food. Depending on the time of year, visitors can participate in activities such as planting seeds, grafting plants, harvesting and more.”
Melanie says learning about different food sources can encourage picky eaters to try more fruits and vegetables.
“Teaching children where and how food grows will connect them with what they are eating and improve eating habits.”
Another benefit to buying our food this way is it is an economical choice that allows our farmer to know how much to plant and harvest; this results in less waste. Melanie says families should consider eating one local seasonal meal a week. “By supporting farmers whenever possible, you are improving your community and economy by keeping your dollars local. Local food travels less so it uses less fuel, less refrigeration and less processing, making it an environmentally sound choice.”
Ottawa mother-of-two Michelle Zenko says her husband signed her up for a CSA at Riverglen Biodynamic Farm for Christmas five years ago.
“We immediately fell in love with our then bi-weekly veggies baskets, especially the challenge of finding recipes for some of the things we wouldn’t ordinarily buy. Garlic scapes make a great pesto! Still after five years, I get excited at every pickup to see what our basket includes.”
Michelle says her two daughters, Myriam and Noémie, also look forward to the weekly farm pickup.
“We are greeted by the hens, pick up our veggies, pet the dogs and cats that come to say hello, look for the cows in the pasture and see what else we can find: sometimes chicks, beautiful flowers and butterflies, even a snapping turtle once! Riverglen is such a happy place, run by such wonderful people. I love being part of it.”
For Michelle, teaching her kids where their food comes from is the basis for teaching them healthy eating habits.
“Our CSA provides our family with an abundance of delicious, nutritious produce, but also connects our kids to their food and the natural world that surrounds them, something so important.”
Another way you could introduce your children to the idea of their food’s source is to plant a vegetable garden. This year, my three-year-old son Henry planted an herb garden in small pots on our balcony. His younger sister Rosie participated by watering the seedlings. It was a great opportunity for my children to experience the growing and harvesting cycle of basil, cilantro, dill and parsley. Michelle also likes to involve her children in the gardening process.
“Gardening takes much more time with little ones in tow, but it’s so worth it when I see them sit right in the garden, tasting all the herbs, eating dozens of beans and chomping on tomatoes as if they were apples.”
Some areas in Ottawa sponsor community gardens for people without gardening space to farm a small plot together.
Today, many children only experience food that is bought at a grocery store. This harvest season is a great opportunity to introduce your children to local food sources. Tour a farm, visit a local farmers market and, as a family, make a local, seasonal feast. For details about CSAs and community gardens, see ottawacsa.ca and justfood.ca. ◆