Every Wednesday during the summer months, my two children and I journey out to Caroline County to visit Snead’s Asparagus Farm off of Route 17. For the past three summers, we have participated in their CSA program which stands for “Community Supported Agriculture.” As CSA members, we receive a weekly bounty of fresh, seasonal produce and the ability to play on the farm. I enjoy the program not only for the social aspect, but also because of the educational aspect.
Educationally speaking, visiting a farm on a regular basis teaches my children where our food comes from. During the peak summer months, we are able to pick berries and Concord grapes directly from the bushes and vines. I don't have a garden at home, so this is my opportunity to teach Maggie and Brendan about the process from seed to fruit. They witness the farm hands harvesting the crops and they feel the heat of the summer, so they appreciate the hard work that goes into growing our food. This year while exploring the farm, Brendan even discovered the asparagus field! I’ve never seen asparagus growing directly from the ground: it is militantly straight and strong, like small trees or sticks poking through the dirt. Quite a sight to behold, especially for an excited three year old who loves asparagus. He wanted to eat the stalks directly from the ground! Last year, while snipping the enormously heavy sunflower heads off of their tall, tall vines, we saw the nearby beehives and I taught my children the importance of the bee in the pollination process. And of course, once we arrive back home with our fruits and vegetables we enjoy trying new things and incorporating fresh, seasonal produce into our weekly recipe repertoire. (For more recipe ideas right here on FredParent, check out Practical Pantry.)
Mr. and Mrs. Snead also do a great job of exposing the CSA members to their farm animals. Having grown up with horses, I’m happy that though I don’t currently have farm animals, my children can still have similar experiences to mine growing up. Last summer they had a baby calf tied to a tree so children could pet and socialize the young animal. Imagine petting a baby cow! Every year, we pet the friendly sheep dogs and note how they herd the animals. Fearless Brendan was brave enough to ride a pony with Mrs. Snead as the supervisor, while my more cautious Maggie prefers to pet the noses of the horses and llamas.
But of course if you ask my children their favorite part of the CSA, they will say they just love to play! We know several families who participate with us and every week we gather with friends to ride the toy tractors, swing on the wooden tree swing, climb the hay bales, weave through the maze to the wooden teepee, or play in the “river” which is actually a small creek on the edge of the woods. A few weeks ago, Brendan was in the small play house and scared Maggie when she went to open the window: they crack me up!
While sometimes it can be stressful having two young children who prefer to go in opposite directions on such a large property, the value in the experience outweighs any difficulty. If you haven’t yet been, I encourage you to visit Snead’s Farm or other similar farms like Miller Farms and Braehead Farm. We are fortunate to live in a community where agriculture is prevalent… and makes learning fun.