The phrase “Real Food is not Perfect” is often used in our house. In a day of processed foods and big chain stores that only carry uniform fruit and vegetables our children often think that food has to look perfect and uniform to taste good. My daughter is especially prone to this. We often here “Mom, what is this?” accompanied by a look of disgust. To which I reply 90% of the time “It’s a normal part of your food. Eat it”

When it is in the field it looks like a little...until you pour it on the counter

The kids helping me prep spinach. When it is in the field it looks like a little…until you pour it on the counter

An activity that has recently changed the kids and my perspectives on food is gleaning.  (My Carpenter grew up with farming, harvesting and farm animals so he is very familiar with where food comes from) A local farm here called Nash’s once a week opens different areas of their fields to glean for people in need. They offer the items in the field that are past the “perfect and uniform”  market stage, but is still great eating. They encourage those involved to take most of what is gleaned and help our local groups in need (such as the food bank, Senior Center, Salvation Army, Peninsula Behavior Health and many other groups). They also encourage us to keep some for ourselves.  This last month they  have also offered that if you are willing to weed in the fields you can be compensated with market returns (produce that didn’t sell at market) .

I can’t express how fabulous this has been!

This is what we are wanting the kids to learn through these experiences:

1)       Community Outreach:  It is VERY important to us that the kids reach out in some way to the community. So this is our community outreach. We give our gleanings to the Arlene Engle House which is a house for Mentally Disabled Adults. The kids drop off the produce with me.

2)       Work Ethic: This is also a BIGGY. We are determined that our kids understand the value and reward of hard work. The kids have been able to work side by side with people working the fields. We usually go out for about an hour. While we work the two year old plays in the mud and talks.

Gleaning Spinach

Gleaning Spinach

3)      Food Origins: They understand more that it takes a lot of care and work for food to get from the field to their table. We have helped harvest potatoes. We have gleaned cauliflower, spinach, cilantro and broccoli. We watched the processing line for carrots. We see that not all veggies have the same uniform shape. We experience, we discuss, we ask questions.

her baby cauliflower

Faith and her baby cauliflower

4)      Use what God gives:  “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of Lights…” James 1:17.  We have been able to pick MANY apples this fall. I estimated that we have picked over 3000 apples. Half of those we have kept for apple sauce, frozen pie fillings, and eating. Half of them we have given to others. Much would go to waste if people didn’t put in the effort to use what God has provided. I deeply appreciate it that when people know they can’t use something that they find a way to bless others.

Back to Perfection… The produce we see in most stores is not a good representation of the average fruit or vegetable from the field.  It is the cream of the crop, the perfect shape that is valued (wow that sounds familiar)  However, the expectation that the perfect shape is somehow better  is not the reality. While watching the carrots go down the conveyer belt and seeing the workers sort, you see that the “perfect” carrots were bagged separately than the imperfect carrots. Yet, they grew side by side in the field and if you picked up a crooked carrot it would taste the same as a perfectly shaped one.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying we should boycott perfectly shaped foods. That would be well… silly. I just think we need to expose our kids and ourselves to the reality that beauty is not the perfectly formed fruit and vegetable. The beauty of food is the flavor, the care put into it and the love that the farmer puts into the soil . The different shapes and designs can make food fun and interesting. (we won’t even get into the funny conversations I have had with an 8 year old boy about food shapes when harvesting potatoes)

Go explore a farm. My experience has been that if you ask a farmer if you can come see what they do they are very willing to share the experience and answer your questions (even the simplistic ones…from adults too).  Children also have great questions that make them smile and help them remember why they work so hard to bring good food to our tables.

The kids at Farm Tour Day

The kids at the Creamery during Farm Tour Day

I think it is even worth taking them out of school for a day to have some “life experience learning”. This is just NOT something they can learn from a book or in a classroom. There is something beautiful and exhilarating about the fresh air, the smells, seeing and hearing the animals. A page in a book or going to the fair is not the same.

We took a day this week to do some “life experience learning”. It was worth it! Even though we had to take a little time to catch up it was worth each moment and they had experiences they will always remember.

What “life experience learning” have you done with the kids? What do you want to learn about and explore?   Please share in the comments.

Happy Explorations  and remember… the “perfect” shape is entirely overrated J

The Frabjus Lady