How to raise ‘farm to table’ kids, even if you don’t live on (or near) a farm

Every night, my 4-year-old son sits down at the dinner table, carefully inspects his food, and asks, "What IS this? And who made it?"

He isn't being rude or critical - he sincerely wants to know. Did this meat come from a chicken or pig? How did the rice get on his plate? Who grew the carrots he's eating? How did his milk make its way from the farm to the store to his glass?

My husband and I are happy to give our son a "farm-to-table" education by explaining what we're eating, where it came from and how it got to our table.

"Promoting a relationship for children with food and food production leads young people to be more engaged with their own health and develop lifelong habits that will serve them into their future," said Jacqueline Maisonpierre, farm director for New Haven Farms, a nonprofit organization based in Connecticut that rehabilitates urban spaces into organic farms.

"Learning about nutrition and developing healthy habits as a young person can have long-term impacts on health and well being, leading to lower incidence of chronic diet-related disease," she said.

Teaching kids where their food comes from is valuable - but actually providing this kind of education in a hands-on way is a challenge for many parents. Not all families have a back yard. Some don't have easy access to grocery stores that sell fresh foods. And others cannot afford to purchase higher-quality, locally grown foods or participate in Community Supported Agriculture programs.

In an ideal world, "farm to table" eating habits would be possible for all families. In reality, it can feel like an unattainable goal. But teaching kids about the origins of their food isn't impossible; it just requires a little bit of creativity and a whole lot of community cooperation. Here are some simple ways to get started.

Get in the kitchen with your kids. When food comes ready-made in a package or is passed through a drive-through window, there's an inevitable detachment. Buying the individual ingredients to make meals from scratch at home - at least some of the time - is worth the extra effort: The act of cooking invites kids to not only touch, taste and explore their food, but to ask questions about it. Why does it have seeds? Why don't we eat the skin? Why was it packaged this way? How do we know when it's ready to eat?

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Packed with step-by-step instructions, useful tips, time-honored wisdom, and both illustrations and photographs, this might just be the most comprehensive guide to back to basics living ever published. Fans of Back to Basics, Homesteading, and Self-Sufficiency have been asking for a one-stop resource for all the subjects covered in that successful series. In response, Gehring has compiled a massive, beautifully presented, single volume that covers canning and preserving, keeping chickens, fermenting, soap-making, how to generate your own energy, how to build a log cabin, natural medicine, cheese-making, maple sugaring, farm mechanics, and much, much more.

Whether you own one hundred acres or rent a studio apartment in the city, this book has plenty of ideas to inspire you. Learn how to build a log cabin or how to craft handmade paper; find out how to install a solar panel on your roof or brew your own tea from dried herbs; Cure a ham, bake a loaf of bread, or brew your own beer. This book has something for everyone.

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