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From the farm to your table

Mother and child making vegetables

Where does the food we eat come from? This question is one part of the farm-to-table experience taking place across the nation. And the experience really begins with where the food is grown on the farm. Often we choose to create our own unique farm-to-table experience when purchasing local fruits and vegetables in season. Preparing and eating food that you enjoy is also part of the farm-to-table experience.

To eat close to the farm

To eat close to the farm choose foods that have the least amount of processing done to them. Fresh fruits and vegetables have little or no processing, so include a variety in your diet. To help manage your budget, buy the fruits and vegetables that are in season. Choose foods with minimal processing and try to limit foods in your diet that have more than five ingredients. Planning meals ahead of time that include more whole foods is also useful. Here is a farm fresh recipe that is quick and easy to prepare:

Butternut Squash with Black Beans

  • 2 3/4 cups Butternut squash, cubed (1 small squash, about 1 pound)
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 onion (small, chopped)
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cans black beans (16 ounces each, rinsed and drained)
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  1. Heat the squash in the microwave on high heat for 1-2 minutes. This will soften the skin.
  2. Carefully peel the squash with a vegetable peeler or small knife.
  3. Cut the squash into 1/2 inch cubes.
  4. Peel and chop the onion.
  5. In a large pan, heat the oil. Add the onion, garlic powder and squash.
  6. Cook for 5 minutes on medium heat.
  7. Add vinegar and water. Cook on low heat until the squash is tender, about 10 minutes.
  8. Add the beans and oregano. Cook until the beans are heated through.

Easy way to get the children involved

Another area that the farm-to-table experience is growing in is schools. Children in school are now enjoying more fresh fruits and vegetables in school meals. This provides a great opportunity to talk with them about where their food comes from and how it was grown. Children are more likely to eat something that they learn about, help purchase and prepare. To further spark their interest questions to ask include:

  • Where were the carrots grown?
  • How long does it take for carrots to grow?
  • How much water does it take to grow carrots?

Here's an easy recipe for carrots that children can help make at home:

Crunchy Carrot Salad

  • 1 pound raw fresh carrots (washed and scrubbed or peeled, shredded)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 8 ounces low-fat vanilla or lemon yogurt
  1. Mix all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.
  3. Toss again before serving.

(Recipe adapted from Kansas State University)

(ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Karen Hawkins is a registered dietitian and works for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Military Community and Family Policy.)

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