Farmers’ markets are better places for kids than grocery stores.
Instead of being stuffed into germ-ridden shopping carts and wheeled down aisle after aisle of over-packaged high-fructose corn syrup, the kids in our Half Moon Bay farmers’ market get around the old-fashioned way: they walk.
Yes, it makes the shopping experience longer, but how else are they going to have access to the appropriately height-positioned samples?
And how else are children going to learn to give goods their full consideration before making a final selection?
We often see adults in the produce section of a big box store choose fruit and vegetables using the “grab ‘n go” selection process. You have to conclude they’ve never learned the necessary insights of how to select a perfectly ripe peach, or how satisfying the experience can be, or how important AND delicious high quality food is.
But a weekly engagement in a shopping world which offers samples, knowledgeable and kind vendors, AND moves at a little kid’s walking speed can impart an education to an emerging consumer that no high-school nutrition class will ever match.
And freedom from a shopping cart allows not just walking, but a full range of movement.
Nothing like a little tomato-powered Zumba with room to twirl to set a girl’s Saturday morning on the right trajectory. Of course, not everyone’s a dancer. Some prefer to cozy up close and scrutinize the finger work…
… while others actually need the assistance of a couple of extra fingers in order to get jiggy wid’ it. This little dude took squealing pleasure in implementing the mantra “Bounce like no one’s watching.”
But walk, dance, sit, or bounce… in every case, parental units never seem to be in a rush to hurry through the experience. It’s one of the very few community interaction hubs where everyone goes at their own pace, and everyone else seems to be okay–and even enjoy–that, and one another.
The casual market setup provides lots of seating options for those not too proud or busy to pull up a curb or a crate. Now, there’s a concept I’d love to see in my local Safeway! I’ve often wanted to be able to set ‘er down on a horizontal surface for one minute, even if it’s just to check my list. Stores used to have such surfaces. They were called “the pickle barrel,” and you could plunk yourself down on one and chat with the grocer or people watch for a minute or two.
The pace also encourages all kinds of learning opportunities that one rarely sees in a conventional grocery store.
Because each stall at our market houses an independent vendor, there can be several transactions, mostly involving actual cash, during a shopping visit instead of just one electronic swipe at a checkout counter. Without the pressure of the long line-up behind you, both market merchants and market parents are willing to take the time to let kids participate in the exchange.
This little girl was her family’s official “money holder.” She took her job seriously and with an admirable, almost ferocious, intensity. You could already see the pink-fleece venture capitalist waiting to bust into the world.
The lessons in commerce are equally matched by opportunities to expand the palate.
And who knows the depth of impact imparted when children watch other children happily trying new things?
At minimum, the farmers’ market experience opens the door to new family avenues of conversation and a great place to slow down, open up, and hang out… to become community.
All photos of children in this blog are used with parental consent.