Cathy Agan, Crawford, Terri L. | 3/13/2018 4:05:01 PM
Cathy Agan and Terri Crawford
Kids have a lot of questions about how food gets to their lunch boxes. The old joke is that a child wonders if chocolate milk comes from brown cows — and surveys show that many adults don’t even know the answer. But children do regularly inquire how the little carrots get in a plastic bag. And when teachers and nutritionists ask where their food comes from, kids often answer, “The grocery store.”
In the not-too-distant past, many children grew up with backyard gardens or regularly visited farms to pick peaches or blueberries, milk cows, collect eggs or gather peas. Reconnecting children to agriculture can help build their understanding of food origins and provide an opportunity to teach them the basics of healthy eating habits.
“From the Farm to the Table to You” is an educational program targeted at elementary students in the northeast region of Louisiana. Five stations educate children about the roles agriculture plays in nutrition. Each station prominently features an illustrated backdrop of a colorful farm and a specialized table cover that shows how food gets from the farm to the table.
Over the course of an hour and 15 minutes, children rotate through the stations, where they are introduced to important concepts and participate in interactive activities. At Louella’s Dairy Farm, children milk a simulated cow. They make a seed tape at Delta Farm and go home with a row of carrot seeds ready to plant. Students mill rice at Sam’s Silo and match different proteins, such as chicken and beef, to their sources at Farmer Pete’s Protein Place. The Tiger Cafeteria teaches the basics of building a healthful plate by selecting nutritious foods. At each station the children receive a gift that reinforces their newfound knowledge, including a card game about whole grains, a MyPlate sticker activity and a nutrition bookmark.
All the stations and materials are designed with elementary school-aged children in mind, with engaging graphics, primary colors and simple lessons. Each station lasts about 15 minutes — short enough to keep most young minds engaged.
This program is changing the way children think about agriculture. Both students and teachers are learning more about the complex agricultural chain from the farm to their plate. Now, kids in the region know that chocolate milk doesn’t necessarily come from a brown cow and that carrots begin in the garden.
Cathy Agan is the area nutrition agent for the Ouachita Parish extension office in West Monroe. Terri Crawford is the 4-H and Family and Consumer Science regional coordinator at the Scott Research and Education Center in Winnsboro.
(This article appears in the winter 2018 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)
At the Delta Farm station, children learn the basics of cultivating plants. For an interactive lesson, they make carrot seed tape, which they can later plant at home. Photo by Karol Osborne
Children discover where milk comes from at Louella’s Dairy Farm, where they can learn to milk a cow. Photo by Karol Osborne
At Sam’s Silo, children learn about the process of milling rice. Photo by Karol Osborne
A visit to Pete’s Protein Place teaches children to match the chicken and beef on their plates to animals on the farm. Photo courtesy of Terri Crawford
The Tiger Cafeteria gives kids the basic information they need to construct a healthy meal. Photo courtesy of Terri Crawford