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Farmers Market Finds

Grade Level
3 - 5
Purpose

Students explore the value of farmers markets to local communities and discover the benefits of locally-grown food. Grades 3-5

Estimated Time
1 hour
Materials Needed

Engage:

Activity 1: Farmers Market Finds

Activity 2: Locally Grown Benefits

Vocabulary

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA): a system in which a farm is supported by local consumers who purchase prepaid shares in the farm's output which they receive periodically throughout the growing season

consumer: a person who buys and uses goods and services

economy: the wealth and resources of a country or region, especially in terms of the production and consumption of goods and services

farmers market: a marketplace where farmers sell the food they produce directly to consumers

food miles: the distance food is transported from the time of its production until it reaches the consumer

Background Agricultural Connections

Food sold close to where it was grown or produced is considered "locally grown." Buying food from local farmers is believed to be good for communities, the local economy, and the environment. Locally sold produce can be harvested at its peak ripeness and reaches the consumer faster and at a fresher stage. When consumers buy local, more of their money stays in their community. Buying locally-grown food also reduces food miles (the distance food is transported), which is good for the environment. Local food can be found at farmers markets, restaurants, Community Supported Agriculture programs (CSAs), food co-ops, food hubs, food stores, and online.

Early in our nation's history, farmers began taking their products to the nearest town to trade for items they could not produce on their own farms. If the farmer had products left after trading, they would take it to a market and sell it directly to consumers. This was the beginning of farmers markets in the United States. In 2002, the Farmers' Market Promotion Program was added to the Farm Bill to provide federal support for farmers markets for the purpose of strengthening direct producer to consumer marketing channels. Farmers markets continue to grow in popularity because customers appreciate the quality of local, in-season food available.

The fruits and vegetables we eat come from parts of plants. Flowering plants have six main parts—roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits, and seeds. Each plant part serves a different function.

Roots act as anchors, holding a plant in place. They take up water and nutrients a plant needs from the soil. Roots can also store extra food for future use. Beets, carrots, radishes, and turnips are examples of edible roots.

Stems provide support for leaves, flowers, and fruit. Water, nutrients, and sugars travel to and from other parts of the plant through the stem. Asparagus is a stem that can be eaten. Potatoes, often mistakenly thought to be roots, are actually enlarged underground stems called tubers.

Leaves use energy from sunlight to carry out photosynthesis and make food for the plant. Edible leaves include arugula, cabbage, lettuce, mint, and spinach. Celery and rhubarb, commonly thought to be stems, are actually the part of a leaf called the leaf stalk or petiole.

Flowers contain the parts of the plant necessary for reproduction and play an important role in pollination. The shapes, colors, and scents of some flowers attract insect and animal pollinators. Following pollination, the fertilization process occurs within the flower. During fertilization, the ovary swells and seeds are produced. The flowers of some plants are edible. Broccoli and cauliflower are flowers that can be eaten.

Fruit is the part of the plant that contains seeds. This botanical definition includes many foods that are typically considered to be vegetables, such as cucumbers and green peppers, as well as more commonly recognized fruits, such as apples, oranges, bananas, and strawberries.

Seeds have three main parts—the embryo, the endosperm, and the seed coat. The embryo grows into a new plant, the endosperm provides nutrients for the embryo, and the seed coat is the protective outer covering that encloses the embryo. With proper conditions, seeds will grow into new plants. Corn, wheat, peanuts, black beans, and sunflower seeds are examples of edible seeds.

It is important for students to understand that not all roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits, and seeds are edible and that some may even be harmful to humans if eaten. Stress the importance of not eating parts of wild plants unless a trusted adult is confident that the plant parts are safe to eat.

Engage
  1. Ask the students, "What is a farmers market?" (A farmers market is a marketplace where farmers sell the food they produce directly to consumers.)
  2. Read On the Farm, At the Market by G. Brian Karas. Provide the students with a Farmers Market Finds activity sheet. As you read, have the students make a list of all the food products available to buy at the farmers market. (Vegetables: Swiss chard, leeks, tomatoes, broccoli rabe; cheese: cheddar; mushrooms; hot chocolate; pies; ice cream; cookies; eggs)
  3. Create a "Farmers Market Finds" class list that matches the students' lists on the board or chart paper.
  4. Explain to the class that they will be exploring the value of farmers markets to local communities and discovering the benefits of locally-grown foods.
Explore and Explain

Activity 1: Farmers Market Finds

  1. Ask the students to raise their hands if they have ever been to a farmers market. What kinds of products did they see or buy? Add the products to their Farmers Market Finds list and the class list.
  2. View the video From the Field to the Farmers Market. Have the students make a list of all the food products mentioned. (Potatoes, Brussels sprouts, snap peas, cucumbers, ground cherries, rhubarb, donuts, bagels) Add the products to the Farmers Market Finds class list.
  3. Explain to the class that one of the most popular products sold at a farmers markets is fresh produce. 
  4. Show the students the Parts of a Strawberry Plant poster or live strawberry plant. Explain that plants have six basic parts—roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits, and seeds.
  5. Using the information found in the Background Agricultural Connections as a guide, explain the functions of each plant part.
  6. Project the Plant Part Chart onto a large screen or display the Plant Part Chart Poster to show examples of fresh produce that might be sold at a farmers market. Point out that the chart shows which part of the plant the fruit or vegetable comes from.
  7. Have the students add any of the fruits and vegetables from the chart that are not already listed to their Farmers Market Finds list.
  8. Have the students put a star next to any items on their list that they have never eaten.
  9. Ask the students to choose one of their starred items. Allow time for them to research recipes for their chosen item. 
  10. Create a class "Farmers Market Recipe Book."  Encourage students and families to visit their local farmers market and try making some of the recipes at home.

Activity 2: Locally Grown Benefits

  1. Distribute the Farmers Market/Grocery Store Venn Diagram to the class. Ask the students to compare and contrast farmers markets and grocery stores.
  2. Ask for volunteers to share what they included on their Venn diagram. Lead a discusion about the similarities and differences. Include the following points:
    • Both farmers markets and grocery stores sell food. Farmers markets and many grocery stores sell locally-grown products. Both offer a variety of food choices.
    • Farmers markets sell hard-to-find food options, specialty and heirloom produce varieties, and homemade products. At farmers markets, you have the opportunity to meet the people who grow your food. Most farmers markets are only open once or twice a week with limited hours. Most farmers markets are outside.
    • Grocery stores sell products that cannot be grown locally and highly processed foods. Most grocery stores are open 6-7 days a week. Some are open 24 hours a day. Grocery stores are in climate-controlled buildings.
  3. Divide the class into groups of 4-5 students. Assign each group a topic area—Economic Benefits, Environmental Benefits, and Quality Benefits (more than one group may have the same topic). Provide the groups with the Local Foods Activity Sheet that matches their topic.
  4. Have the groups discuss the benefits of locally-grown foods within their topic area and list their ideas on their activity sheet.
  5. Lead a class discussion about the benfits of locally-grown foods. Allow time for each group to share their ideas. Guide the students to consider the following points:
    • Economic Benefits: When you buy local products, more money stays in your community. Buying locally-grown foods supports local farmers. Every dollar spent to purchase locally-produced products adds four times more to the local economy than a dollar spent at a national chain retailer.1
    • Environmental Benefits: Most food is shipped an average of 1500 miles before being sold.2 These distances substantially increase when considering food imported from other countries. The less miles a product travels, the less fossil fuels are needed to transport it. Reducing food miles cuts down on fuel consumption, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions.
    • Quality Benefits: Typically, produce in the United States is picked 4-7 days before being placed on supermarket shelves. Locally sold produce can be harvested at its peak ripeness because it reaches the consumer faster and at a fresher stage. The farther food is transported, the amount of food lost to spoilage increases. Less spoilage equals less food waste.
Elaborate
  • Play the Farmer's Market Challenge online game. 

  • Read Try It! How Frieda Caplan Changed the Way We Eat by Mara Rockliff to explore more unusual produce items that may be found at farmers markets.

  • Print extra copies of the "Farmers Market Recipe Book" created in Activity 1 (or make it accesible digitally) and make it available for customers at your local Farmers Market.

  • Bring in unusual produce from the local farmers market for students to taste test.

Evaluate

After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:

  • Food sold close to where it was grown or produced is considered "locally grown."
  • Buying food from local farmers is believed to be good for communities, the local economy, and the environment.
  • A farmers market is a marketplace where farmers sell the food they produce directly to consumers.
  • The fruits and vegetables we eat come from parts of plants. Flowering plants have six main parts—roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits, and seeds.
Author
Lynn Wallin
Organization
National Center for Agricultural Literacy
Powered by the National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix (agclassroom.org)