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Harvest

Lots of schools have harvest festivals, but the best way you can connect your kids to the rhythms of the earth is to take part in the dance.

At our house, this happens in a variety of ways.

We went on a lovely school fieldtrip to Live Earth Farm. We’ve gone there before, and I can’t give a higher recommendation for a free-form, relaxed introduction to a real, working farm. Although there are some enjoyable aspects of the much more popular, highly synchronized UCSC Farm visit, Live Earth beats UCSC Farm hands in the dirt!

Live Earth is a family farm. There’s not a student on the place. The people you meet are farmers. One of them might have a toddler strapped to her back.

Live Earth feeds real people. A number of the kids on our fieldtrip had taken part in their CSA, getting boxes of food delivered weekly.

Live Earth is a farm in the way that they used to be. It grows everything necessary for life, from a large barn full of chickens who supply the eggs (and the cuddles, if you can get to them fast enough) to the orchards, strawberry fields, and seasonal vegetables. You even get to see where the water is stored, and learn how the earth is humped like that to form places to trap water.

We also go weekly to our farmer’s market. If there’s any better way to get a city kid to understand the rhythm of natural life, I don’t know it. One week they love the kumquats. But where are the kumquats this week? Gone. Just like the asparagus and the oranges. Yeah, we live in California, so you do get broccoli, greens, and cucumbers year-round. But still, every week at the farmer’s market is a free education in natural eating. You can’t always get what you want, and that’s OK.

We have the good luck to be able to visit my parents’ farm. Lots of people are surprised to find out that I wasn’t raised here, since my parents have a farm here. It happened like this: When I was a teenager, I decided to go to college as far away from my family as I could imagine: California. Apparently, I talked it up a bit too much. They all followed me. (Yes, I’m sorry to say that I’m responsible for a measurable portion of California overpopulation.) My parents had lived in Berkeley, and were back in the Midwest prior to my dad’s retirement, and decided to move back out here. My future husband and I were looking for a place in Santa Cruz. My parents were looking for a place to grow wine grapes anywhere between Mendocino and Monterey.

Somehow, we ended up 15 minutes away from each other.

I’m not complaining! Having a family farm has its wonderful benefits. Although my kids can’t yet partake of the biggest crop at the farm (wine), they know the earth and how it works. They learn about what grows when and where. For many years (till we got a mountain lion as a neighbor) they got to know goats. We can see the stars out there. We spend the summer watching the hillsides grow brown and the gophers trying to escape Grandpa’s fiendish designs.

Finally, we do our little bit right at home. When my future husband and I bought this house, I had no idea I’d fall in love with the idea of raising food, just as my parents did when they got their little piece of land in the Midwest. So we bought under redwoods. As some of you might know, there’s not much that grows under redwoods.

But we try! We always have herbs, and my kids can distinguish them all. We put tomatoes in a pot so that we can push them around to chase the little bits of sun in our front yard. (I keep meaning to make my fortune by getting a patent for my garden-on-wheels. Somehow, other things keep taking precedent.) Right now, we have snow peas, which are leggy and happy, producing enough peas to make a meal in about a week’s time, and quickly fading cherry tomatoes.

Even if you just grow flowers in a box in the window, it’s so important for kids to see how we are connected with the natural world. Your own harvest might not be enough to feed many families, but it will feed your family’s soul.

Posted in Education, Homeschooling.


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