Picking the Healthy Choice: Becoming Part of the Farm-to-Table Movement
Walking up and down the grocery aisles may not inspire kids to eat their fruits and veggies because it separates them from the process of growing foods. When children know where exactly from where their food comes, they are more likely to make healthy choices. Recently, Tupelo and surrounding areas have made a movement towards healthier food opportunities for families. Farmers’ markets, farms, and restaurants that buy from local farms are not only essential for providing delicious and healthy options, but also they strive to educate families about the process of growing nutritious foods.
The Tupelo Farmers’ Depot is an excellent place to start when looking for fresh produce. From April to October, families can purchase local honey, fruits, vegetables, canned and pickled delicacies, fresh flowers, and more three days a week. Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, families can shop the open-air market. Jennifer Williams-Cook, local nurse and mother, says that if it is not in her own garden, then she goes to the farmers’ market. Although families won’t have the chance to talk to multiple farmers selling their wares, another option with more hours is Smith’s Nursery in Saltillo, which is open year round Monday through Saturday, and also carries local fresh fruits and veggies.
Tupelo’s own Native Son Farm is Mississippi’s largest certified naturally grown farm, known for their chemically-free grown CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and strawberries. They have two yearly CSAs available for the community with 7-10 different items each week (or every other week, if families select a half share). The first is the spring/summer, which can include strawberries, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, squash, onions, cucumbers, garlic, sunflowers, leafy vegetables, and more. The fall/winter 12week session runs from October 3 to December 21. A sampling of its produce includes cooking and salad greens, root vegetables, and gigantic heads of broccoli and cauliflower. For many local families, the Native Son CSA provides the bulk of their produce, and menus are built around whatever is in the box for the week. Moms such as Candi Quartaro of Saltillo, a physical education teacher and mother of two sons, and mother of three Anna Polsgrove of Tupelo recommend Native Son Farm for its produce.
When families sign up for a CSA share, they are not only receiving weekly produce, but they are forming a relationship with Native Son Farm. Children can go to the farm on Lumpkin Avenue in Tupelo in April to get their hands in the dirt and pick strawberries. This past spring they even held weekly strawberry pancake breakfasts where families could eat at long tables in the field before or after picking their own juicy, red strawberries. In the summers on Wednesday mornings they hold farm school, which is an informal opportunity for kids to get hands on with the produce and see how it grows and is harvested on the farm. This summer among many other activities, parents and children could dig for potatoes. Children of all ages could experience what it was like to use their hands as little shovels to scoop the potatoes up from the earth instead of simply selecting them from a pile in a grocery store.
Mississippi has a long growing season, and from spring to fall, there is always something in season for picking. After spring-time strawberries, children can pick blueberries at Pontotoc Ridge Blueberry Farm, during the early summer. Although it is famous locally for its peaches, in the fall, families can pick apples at Cherry Creek Orchards also in Pontotoc. In addition to local fruit-picking, the fall also brings with it many opportunities for corn mazes and pumpkin patches. A nearby favorite farm for pumpkin picking is Wise Family Farms in Ecru. Most pumpkin patches pre-pick their pumpkins and have them neatly arranged in the fields for convenience. However, as long as the fields are not too muddy, at Wise Family Farms, families load up in wagons pulled by tractors and head out to the fields where excited kids can select their own pumpkins of a variety of colors. This is where children can see first-hand that not all pumpkins are orange but can also be shades of dark green or ghost white. All of this work on the farm can really build up an appetite. Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen in downtown Tupelo specializes in providing a seasonal menu that is filled with farm-totable produce. Guests can even watch it being prepared before their eyes if they choose to sit downstairs at the food bar where the open-concept kitchen is the centerpiece. Its more-casual sister restaurant, Neon Pig, also uses farm-fresh ingredients and has been recognized for having the best burger in the US. Sweet Tea and Biscuits, a cafe located inside of an antique store on McCullough, offers a daily lunch special, which often features a farm-fresh vegetable plate or other signature dish made from locally-sourced ingredients whether it is purple hull peas and tomatoes from a local garden or sweet potatoes just down the road from Vardaman.
Families who shop and eat from local farms are not only supporting their neighbors, but they are making healthier choices. If parents want kids to eat their fruits and veggies, the best thing they can do is to take them to the source and help them see from where the foods are coming. This will then pave the way to a healthier community.
Heather Gausline Tate is a freelance writer, tutor, and travel agent. She lives in Guntown with her husband Logan and their five-year-old son London and 9-month-old son Christian who love going to the farm to pick strawberries, dig for potatoes, and especially pick their pumpkins.