Educational activities at farmers markets for young people

Explore your local farmers market this summer by trying these tested youth activities.

Photo by Flickr user Nicola
Photo by Flickr user Nicola

For most students, summer break has officially commenced and summer weather has arrived! At the same time, in the local food world, most farmers markets have also begun and are getting closer to prime harvest time for Michigan produce.

As a parent, or a market manager or volunteer, there are plenty of ways to have an educational experience with young people at farmers markets. Read on for some tested activities for youth at farmers markets, which can be organized as a family or on the market level for all youth market participants.

Shake It Up: This series of eight lessons is the youth component of Michigan State University Extension’s Discover Michigan Fresh program. Each lesson includes making a recipe (that must be shaken) and highlights Michigan-grown products. The lessons walk through how the plants in the recipes are grown, what plant parts we eat and produce varieties. The series of eight lessons also includes hands-on activities and farmer interviews to share producer knowledge and perspective. Contact your local MSU Extension office to see if Shake It Up is being offered in your area.

Vegetable and Fruit Charades: Using a brown paper bag or opaque container, secretly select an assortment of local vegetables and fruits from the market. For the activity, select one of the vegetables or fruits and place it in the bag or container. With a young person or people, ask for one volunteer. Without looking, have them feel the item in the bag, and smell it if they choose. Then ask them to describe it to you, and anyone else playing, using descriptive words. You can ask questions to help guide them like whether it is soft, hard, round, bumpy, smooth, etc. You and the other participants can guess the local food item until someone guesses correctly or you give up! If you have a larger group, switch to someone else to describe a new vegetable or fruit.

Vegetable and Fruit Stamps: Two to three days before you want to do the activity, choose a selection of vegetables and fruits that you will use for your stamps. Cut open the vegetables and fruits you selected, creating at least one flat surface that you will stamp with. Good examples of produce to use are potatoes, celery, summer squash, apples, broccoli, cherries and anything else you would like to experiment with. Some of the vegetables and fruits can be cut into intentional shapes for more stamping options. Allow the vegetables and fruits to sit out to dry. If you do not allow enough time for the produce to dry out, the stamps may be watery and will have less definition. On the day of the activity (two to three days later), you will need stamp pads (try to choose non-toxic ones) and paper. Use the produce stamps on the pads and get creative with pairing and layering different stamps and colors to make artwork!

Scavenger Hunts: Scavenger hunts are a great way to explore the market. There are many examples (see here and here for two) available online if you don’t want to make up your own, or you can create your own questions specific to your market. This activity is one way to explore what products are available at the market, encourage young people to interact with the vendors and learn about their life, learn about different agricultural practices and much more. There is no limit to the creativity you can instill in a scavenger hunt at the market!

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