April Verhoef shared her insight as both a Kern County mother of grown children and as market manager of F Street Farmers Market. She answered three key questions about shopping with children and involving them in food and nature-based learning.
Q. Supporting local vendors is important. We always want to support Kern County’s small businesses and agrarians. How can our readers and their families better support local shopping?
A. It is so nice when I see families shopping with their kids at F Street Farmers Market. My suggestion is to give your kid $5 and let them choose something they want to make. Let your child decide what to cook, where to buy the ingredients, choose which vendor has what they need and let them really do it. Involving them and helping them learn to eat healthy happens when they can take part in the process.
For every day a fruit or vegetable sits on the shelf, it loses nutritional value. As farmers, we try to provide the freshest food we can to help enhance your health. The fruits and vegetables for sale are often picked the night before. Eggs are, at most, a week old. Sometimes at the farmers market, we don’t have what people want because it’s not in season, but that tells you there’s an order to things and to get it while it’s there. You know it’s locally grown and available because of what’s in season in Kern County, not brought from a different place in the world. Teaching children about those differences matters.
Q. As a parent in the area, what do you recommend other parents do to educate their families about agricultural resources and life skills associated with cooking and eating?
A. I think my children really benefited from having life on the farm for information but that’s not every family or child has access to. I would say to get involved in 4-H, FFA, call the Ag Department and ask, where are my local clubs. Children who live in more urban areas could still have rabbits, maybe chickens. Even growing vegetables in a pot could help children know more about the process. Anyone can grow beans. Take a milk jug and get potting soil or dirt from outside to see how the growing process works.
Q. Do you have any recipes we should share with our readers?
A. Yes, I always tell people at the market this one because we sell sausage and my suggestion is to make a sheet pan supper. It’s the easiest meal you can make. Go get some sweet potatoes and onions, any vegetable you like, take a little bit of olive oil and put it on parchment paper with the sausage links. All the juices from the meat will go on top and flavor the meal. It’ll be delicious.
Farmers Market Sheet Pan Dinner
• 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 to 1 inch pieces (You can use russet potatoes, if you prefer)
• 2 yellow, brown, or red onions, quartered or thickly sliced
• 2 garlic cloves, chopped
• 2-3 cups veggie(s) of your choice: i.e. baby carrots, broccoli, brussels sprouts, green beans or mushrooms
• 1 package sausage links or ground sausage
• 2 tbsp Olive Oil
• Salt & Pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. Combine all veggies in a large bowl. Toss with olive oil and a heavy pinch of salt and pepper.
3. Spread across large cooking sheet, and place sausage links or crumble ground sausage across top.
4. Bake for 45 minutes. Slice cooked links before serving, or serve as is.