In their citified or suburban lives, the closest many kids ever get to experiencing farming today is when the sprinklers start up to water the veggies in the Schnucks produce aisle.
When they have milk, eggs and meat right within their reach, kids take for granted the hard work it took to pack their plates with fresh, healthy foods. They never get their hands in the dirt, feel the joy of picking tomatoes off the vines, or enjoy how a sun-kissed peach tastes straight from the tree.
It’s time to get kids back to our food’s roots. With a variety of farm tours available right in our backyards – even in the heart of the city – our little ones can get a true taste of the farm-to-table movement.
EarthDance – The Ferguson Farmers Market is your gateway to the oldest organic farm west of the Mississippi. Every Saturday morning at 10:45 a.m during Market season, the Jolly Trolley takes shoppers to EarthDance for a free, one-hour tour where you can visit their covered rain garden, edible landscaping plots, permaculture orchard, and other landmarks. Kids can sample new taste sensations like mint or cherry tomatoes right from the field.
In addition, you and your kids can be farmers for the day every Tuesday, Friday or Saturday from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. or 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. by volunteering to help with weeding, planting, mulching, and harvesting. EarthDance also offers private tours, perfect for large groups and homeschooling co-ops.
“Food is the one common thread that unites us all,” said Crystal Stevens, marketing coordinator for EarthDance. “Learning where it comes from and how it’s grown is important for the health of our environment and the health of every individual.”
Marcoot Jersey Creamery – Marcoot’s artisan cheeses are a mainstay for restaurants across the region. This seventh-generation, family-owned dairy in Greenville, Ill. crafts their array of cheeses right at the farm, creating everything from craveable curds to cave-aged Gouda.
Mondays through Fridays at 1 p.m. and Saturdays at 11 a.m., Marcoot takes cheese lovers on a one-hour tour of their operations for $5.00 per person. You and your kids can enjoy a guided look at its milking parlor, visit with the littlest inhabitants at the calf barn (which is impossible to get your kid out of as I quickly learned), and learn the ins and outs of cheese making at the Creamery. It also includes a cheese tasting that lets you sample their mouthwatering creations.
Afterward, be sure to grab a few items to go from their Country Store, including a cone loaded up with their homemade ice cream.
Urban Harvest STL – Urban Harvest has grown a network of farms across the City of St. Louis, but their shining star is the FOOD ROOF Farm located at 1335 Convention Plaza. On Saturdays from April 1 through October 31, Urban Harvest invites families to their free drop-in community days from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. According to founder and executive director Mary Ostafi, it’s a way for anyone to get their hands dirty or simply see the farm in action with the city as its backdrop.
“Kids just adore the space. They walk up, and their eyes light up – they can’t believe there’s an actual farm on the roof. The highlight for younger kids is our chickens that they can hold and pet. But they also love to learn about different vegetables, especially those they’ve never tried. For many, it’s the first time they ever get a bite of sorrel or a purple tomato. It’s really fun for kids of all ages.”
Urban Harvest also hosts private tours and field trips for groups of up to 40 people, tailored to any age group, for $50 to $100 depending on the number of attendees. As a free add-on, kids in grades first through eighth can enjoy a nutrition session thanks to Urban Harvest’s partnership with the University of Missouri Extension office.
For parents who need a break from the little ones, try their monthly Farm Flow Yoga classes and renowned Harvest Dinners centered on seasonal dishes with ingredients raised right on the farm.
Metro East mom Nicole Plegge is the lifestyle and pop culture blogger for STL Parent. Besides working as a freelance writer & public relations specialist, and raising two daughters and a husband, Nicole's greatest achievements are finding her misplaced car keys each day and managing to leave the house in a stain-free shirt. Her biggest regret is never being accepted to the Eastland School for Girls. Follow Nicole on Twitter @STLWriterinIL