Last year’s Farmers MarKIDS
Program helps students sell the food they grow
Last year, after nearly a decade of connecting children with their food through hands-on culinary and garden lessons, Recipe for Success Foundation sprouted a sweet idea: Use the garden to teach financial literacy. They named the resulting program Farmers MarKIDS.
Developed as a guide for facilitators and students, the 50-page Farmers MarKIDS curriculum outlines how to transform a garden’s bounty into a working farm stand. Lessons cover everything an entrepreneur should consider when starting a business, from establishing goals, an inventory of resources and a budget to pricing, marketing and selling their wares. The idea flourished out of excitement surrounding Recipe for Success’ summer camps, in which kids create and market their own food product.
Justin Myers, the Foundation’s director of agriculture and gardens, believes these lessons to be crucial for youngsters. “There’s an economic component to many parts of your day, so learning about managing money and how things are marketed and sold helps them better understand how society works.” This knowledge is empowering. It serves as a tool to navigate healthy choices, to consider why they’re attracted to this cereal or that yogurt over another.
MacGregor Elementary vendor stand, Since its launch in 2005, Recipe for Success has been fighting child obesity through awareness campaigns and educational programs like their signature Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education. To learn more about Farmers MarKIDS and download the free curriculum, visit recipe4succes.org. And mark your calendar for this year’s Farmers MarKIDS Days, October 20–26.
An added perk is that Farmers MarKIDS provides a way for schools to raise money for garden programs. “Often funding in schools is limited, so being able to raise your own funds helps create a more sustainable system,” says Myers. “To that end, we also talk about how supporting local business is part of building a good community.”
After an initial pilot of the program, the Foundation released the free downloadable curriculum to the public. Last October, several Houston-area schools took part in the first Farmers MarKIDS Days, hosting farm stands to celebrate National Food Day. Kolter Elementary joined two other schools in setting up colorful tables at Urban Harvest’s downtown market. For sale: herbs, eggplant, sweet potatoes, kale, arugula, mustard greens, sweet and hot peppers alike, even biodegradable seed starter kits to plant your own.
Pilar Hernandez, Kolter’s garden coordinator and parent of two, says they sold out of everything that day. “The students were amazed that they were actually able to sell what they grew,” says Hernandez. They chatted with the other participating schools, interacted with customers and used the money raised to throw a class party. “It was a really fun experience, and taught me a lot about advertising. We were there with several other schools selling similar produce next to us, so attracting people to our booth in particular required our best marketing skills.” Said Leah Mei Guttentag, 11-year-old grad from Kolter Elementary.
While Farmers MarKIDS is not the first fundraiser model for schools, selling fresh produce instead of hawking sugary drinks or candy bars certainly sends a more encouraging message to children and their communities.
Kids DO love bokchoy! Harvesting and bagging arugula at MacGregor Elementary.
Providing positive experiences with healthy foods is at the core of Recipe for Success’s mission, and it’s why Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Educator Emily Paul loves her job. “This past year, we planted a lot of bok choy to make a soba noodle dish,” says Paul, who teaches at MacGregor Elementary. After sampling the veggie in garden class, a pre-schooler later asked, “Garden teacher, can I have some more bok choy?” In class the following month, hand raised, he again requested they try the leafy Chinese brassica. Suddenly a chorus of little voices chanted “Bok choy! Bok choy!”
“It was absolutely incredible to hear 4-year-olds request bok choy,” says Paul. Then, with a laugh, she adds, “I really think it’s because they loved saying it, but once I gave it to them, they cheered! They’d been wanting it.”
Just imagine what these tots will be asking for in a few years. One can guess they will one day be active supporters at their local farmers market … and maybe even running their own stands.