About 130 Comox Valley students learned about locally sourced food — from farmers themselves — when they toured the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market.
Various classes from School District 71 toured the site during two consecutive Wednesday markets last month at Comox Bay Farm, which has now wrapped up for the year.
Market manager Vicky Brown came up with the idea to invite schools and says kids should learn about food security.
“It’s really important that kids understand where their food comes from,” says Brown. “Right now, there’s droughts going on in the States, there’s wars being fought over food security all over the planet, and we are blessed in this Valley to have almost 500 small farms — and as long as we support those farms, they’ll continue to produce food for us and that’s a huge piece of food security in the Valley.”
About 65 kids, mostly from kindergarten/Grade 1 and Grade 3/4 classes, came to check out the market each Wednesday where they were introduced to each vendor who told them about how they produce the food they sell.
For example, they heard how Grassi Point Farms grew all the food it sells at the market on one acre of land; Stonecroft Farm told them about how a turkey goes from being an egg to being a turkey; another vendor taught them about the importance of bees in the ecosystem and why pollination is important; and another yet explained the difference between organic and non-organic food.
The kids also got to taste test some of the fare at the market, play games like guessing which vegetable was hidden in a sack by feeling it, and learn about the history of the Comox Bay Farm, the importance of swan conservation and why swans flock to the fields there in the colder months.
Queneesh Elementary School’s Montessori program student Georgia Nickerson, 10, says she enjoyed the experience.
“I like it,” she says, adding the most interesting thing she learned was “the difference between free-run and free-range chickens.”
Her classmate Jaden Fath, 10, agreed the tour was interesting.
“I really like how everything’s really fresh and natural, unlike when you go to the store and everything has pesticides and chemicals,” he says, adding the most valuable thing he learned was something he already knew but now understands better: “What you buy from the store, you can buy the same things from here but it’s better for you.”
Brown noted she was surprised by the response she received from Comox Valley schools.
“When school started I sent an invitation out to all the principals in the school district and I thought ‘oh I’ll get a couple of classes’ and I had really a lot of classes that wanted to come (laughs) so we had to cut it off,” she said, adding there were only two Wednesdays to do the tours by the schools could organize the field trips.
She plans to continue teaching Valley kids about local food in other ways.
“I think what we’ll do is set up a system where either we go into the classrooms and talk to the kids, because some teachers who couldn’t make it asked us to that, so we would bring a farmer with us and talk to them about local farming, or take kids out to some of our farms to tour,” she said.
But for now, she’s very happy with how the tours went and the enthusiasm students, teachers and school administration have shown towards the idea.
“It’s great. The first class we had, she (the teacher) was doing a whole piece on farmers’ markets and local foods, and they were going back to their class to set up their own demonstration market, so it’s amazing, it’s amazing the response we’ve had, it’s been really, really great — and it’s fun,” she said with a huge grin.
The Comox Valley Farmers Market will continue at the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays until it moves into the Native Sons Hall on Oct. 27.
For more information on the farmers market, visit www.comoxvalleyfarmersmarket.com.