Farm-to-Table Family Lessons from a Storybook Cow

Do your kids think food comes from the shelves of the supermarket rather than Mother Earth’s soils? By teaching children the origins of food, you help them connect them to the miraculous process through which food travels from farm to fork. Captivating storytelling is a great way to pass along that message. That was the inspiration for farmer Diana Prichard to write her newly-released children’s book The Cow in Patrick O’Shanahan’s Kitchen.

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“I’m always frustrated with the misinformation and the lack of information that’s out there for consumers, so I wanted to bring the message to kids,” says Pritchard, who owns a small hog farm and writes about food and agriculture on her blog Righteous Bacon. “I hope that it spurs a curiosity and inspires people to reach out and find out where their food comes from.” The picture book, geared to children ages 4 to 8, tells the story of a surprise bovine guest at a family’s breakfast table, who, quite literally, contributes to breakfast — along with the chicken sitting on the refrigerator.

“We tried to keep it light,” says Pritchard. “We tried to make it a funny story for kids so that they can get into it first and then learn the messages from there. It’s a springboard for conversation.” If we educate children when they are small, she says, we set the foundation for them to make better food choices for themselves in the future. The Cow in Patrick O’Shanahan’s Kitchen is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, book stores across the country and directly from the publisher Little Pickle Press.

More Farm-to-Table Children’s Books

Some other books that teach children the origins of food are:

The Boy Who Changed the World by Andy Andrews

Growing Seasons by Elsie Lee Splear

Snow Comes to the Farm by Nathaniel Tripp

More Ways to Teach Kids About Food

Once you’ve read the books, why not reinforce the learning with a trip to a local farm? Many farms offer tours and special educational activities for children. “At our farm we hold tours for individual families and groups,” says Pritchard, “and we have also taught some classes for people who are interested in learning a deeper amount about where pork, specifically, comes from.” Agriculture also presents the opportunity to teach children important lessons such as nurturing, caring, and sharing.

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Do you live in a large city? You might want to consider exploring an Agriculture In Your Classroom organization in your state, or visiting an urban farm or a rooftop garden in your neighborhood. “If you reach out to them, they could probably help you set up something in your school,” says Pritchard.

Continue the connection by going to your local farmers market, or joining a CSA — community-supported agriculture, in which you pay a farm or group of farms in advance of the season, and then, each week during the growing season, get a bushel of farm-fresh food. “I think the thing about incorporating any regional agriculture into your diet, and farmers markets into your shopping, is that it connects kids with something that is closer to home,” says Pritchard. “It’s easier for them to see and makes a connection with a tomato they bought from a farmer rather than a tomato sauce that’s on their spaghetti.”

Winter is also a great time to start planning the ultimate farm-to-fork experience: a garden. With a little bit of time, patience, and TLC you can grow a cornucopia of fresh fruits and vegetables. Growing a garden also offers the opportunity to teach children responsibility for a living thing: Each child could be granted the privilege to care for their favorite plant. Don’t have much space? Use plastic bottles to make an easy, cheap, DIY “vertical garden”!

Teaching children where their food comes from can start with a book. But there’s no telling where it will end.

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