Food education is important to me – especially as a mother. Given that we spend a lot of time on the road, I try and make it a point to introduce my children to different tastes and food cultures as often as possible while we travel. I want my kids to grow up having broad palates and diverse diets – although if I let them choose they would probably eat chicken fingers for every meal. It’s important to me to try my best to kindle their love of good foods and help them to make the connection between farms, stores and restaurants. There are so many different ways to use travel with kids as a means of food education – these are my top five.
Food Education Through Travel | Frankenmuth, Michigan
Over the years, as we have traveled to several different states and ate at numerous different restaurants, I realized that during this time our eyes were being opened to new ingredients – many that we had never heard of before (like the paw paw fruit in Northern Michigan). We were broadening our pallets and finding ourselves yearning after a more diverse selection of food – and I didn’t even realize we were doing it at the time. With what I thought was simply a desire to be adventurous, turned out to be the beginning of our food education journey. Through our travels and interaction with farmers and chefs, we began to learn the importance of using local produce at it’s peak season, finding new ways of combining flavors, and learning more about historic means of food preservation.
I’ve realized that finding ways to experience food with kids can be done anywhere, however it was during my recent trip to Frankenmuth, Michigan that I finally put all the pieces together. Now that I’ve realized that I have been unintentionally teaching my kids about food all along while we traveled – I have decided that I could easily make more intentional decisions and help plant that seed of interest and learning about food in them.
7 Ways to Make Food Education a Part of Travel with Kids
1. Visit a Local Farm. Visiting a farm is one of our favorite ways to learn about where food comes from. We’ve also found that there are farms all over the states that allow visitors – from u-pick farms to dairy farms or even produce farms. Visiting local farms has not only been a means of fun and adventure for our family, but it has also allowed us to put a face and connection behind where our food comes from. Knowing that the farmers care about the quality and safety of the food they produce, and then seeing some of the struggles they endure and the hard work they put into producing our food, made me appreciate good food even more and work harder to not waste it.
During our recent trip to Frankenmuth, Michigan we were able to make a stop at a local dairy farm. By speaking with the farmer and walking around the property with him, I learned that dairy farming in Michigan is extremely efficient and highly controlled for safety. Every cow is monitored daily for changes in diet or movement, the milk is tested before it enters the transit tank and again before being unloaded from the tank for packaging. I also learned that in Michigan there are 1,700 Grade A dairy farms that produce 9.6 billion pounds of milk annually! Holy cow! 🙂
2. Visit a Local Farmers Market. This is something we tend to do frequently while traveling because farmers markets are a great way to learn about locally grown produce and small market goods. Most farmers markets take place on Saturday mornings and it is a great time to wander around, purchase homemade donuts or buy a large tub of strawberries for snacking on. Plus, many of the times the farmers are available for chatting and it can be an excellent resource.
3. Take a Cooking / Baking Class. This has to be one of my favorite ways to incorporate food education into travel. Some restaurants or production facilities offer baking classes and many times they are appropriate for kids – like the one we recently attended to learn to make pretzels at the Bavarian Inn Restaurant in Frankenmuth, Michigan. This class, which is $5 per person, allows kids and adults to walk through the process of making homemade pretzels (a Bavarian Inn specialty). After the pretzels are hand rolled by the attendees, they are finished in the kitchen and then the best part comes – eating your creation!
4. Eat at Craft Restaurants. We love to eat at small craft restaurants! Eating at smaller craft restaurants usually gives us the opportunity to taste new flavors and dishes than we aren’t typically used to – plus they typically use local products that are in peak season. Places like breweries, cultural restaurants and farm to tables rank high on our list while traveling.
5. Go Online. Since we road trip a lot, I am always looking for printable activities for my kids to keep them busy while we travel. It is possible to find agricultural printables or games online that can further food education. They’re free – might as well use them.
6. Shop Locally and Seasonally. There are many times while we are traveling that we purchase foods to make ourselves – we can’t always eat out! During these times I put importance on buying local and seasonal – like fresh fish in harbor states and asparagus in the spring. We often talk about the foods while we are preparing them and their significance to the area and/or season.
7. Visit Local Food Production Facilities. Often these large scale facilities will offer free tours – which we’ve found quite interesting on several occasions! With just a little bit of research we have been able to find food production services in several states including the Jiffy Mix plant in Chelsea, Michigan. It’s best to check ahead for these types of tours however because often they have an age requirement.
Fun Facts about Michigan Agriculture
- There are 52,194 farms in Michigan.
- Michigan produces 300 agricultural commodities.
- Michigan produces the most low-fat ice cream mix and grows the most cucumbers for pickles, blueberries and tart cherries.
- Michigan ranks second for the state with the most diverse agriculture industry in the nation.
- Michigan ranks third in the nation for asparagus production, producing up to 23 million pounds annually.
To gain more information about Michigan Agriculture visit http://www.michiganagriculture.com/
How to you incorporate food education into your travels? We’d love to hear your ideas! Tweet us @raisingdickjane or comment below.
Disclosure: I was invited to join a group of influencers on this agriculture tour as a guest. All opinions are my own.