Youth join with agriculture by means of meals schooling


MT. PLEASANT — Henry County’s next generation find connections with agriculture through the growing an consumption of food on a much smaller scale.

Iowa State Extension Office of Henry County begins introducing the youngest members of the community to agriculture through programming such as Preschool Produce Boxes, Pick a Better Snack, and the upcoming Gardening with Children class.

According to Henry County ISU Extension Marketing Program Coordinator Kelly Waters, the produce boxes and pick a better snack provide young children an opportunity to connect with agriculture and the origin of their food.

Through the Preschool Produce Boxes, ISU Extension provides local preschools with a different snack each month alongside education about the food they taste.

Additionally, Extension Office 4-H County Youth Staff Erin Heaton and Sadie Martin provide food tastings for kindergarten through third grade students through the statewide Pick A Better Snack program.

Snacks and produce boxes contents for tasting vary by month.

In February, Henry County Cattlemen and Henry County Pork Producers provided beef and pork sticks for the Preschool Produce Boxes.

Alongside the protein snacks, students read “My Family’s Pig Farm,” or “My Family’s Beef Farm.

They also learned about beef names and pigs.

Martin explored pineapple as a snack with local schools for Pick A Better Snack in February, as well.

In January, Heaton delivered Preschool Produce Boxes containing cheese curds from Hinterland Dairy.

With their diary boxes, classes learned where milk comes from and how cheese curds are made.

They also read “My Family’s Dairy Farm” or “Out and About on the Dairy Farm.”

Pick A Better Snack participants tried chickpeas in the form of hummus in January.

Another way Henry County’s ISU Extension Office hopes to help children connect with their food includes educating local childcare providers in engaging their students in gardening.

According to Waters, a benefit from the Gardening with Children class may include children making connections, “ … with where their food comes from, food systems and agriculture.”

“Can digging in the dirt be good for children?” Extension Office Human Sciences Specialist Sara Sprouse shared. “Yes, when it encourages children to taste new foods that they’ve helped to grow. Gardening with children promotes a healthy lifestyle, early learning experiences, social development, and environmental stewardship.”

WACO Preschool Associate McKenna Vradenburg shared how growing up on a farm impacted her understanding of the food she eats.

According to Vradenburg, participating in raising animals and growing produce, “makes you want to eat it more.”

“Growing up on a farm taught me a lot of responsibility because at a young age I learned that animals are very dependent on their owners,” Vradenburg shared. “They can’t just walk to the kitchen and get a glass of water.”

“My family was very proud when we cooked with meat from an animal we raised and butchered,” she said.

“I hated green beans growing up, but once we started gardening them, it made me want to eat them more,” Vradenburg said. “Not only did I help grow them, but I was a part of taking them from the seed all the way to the table.”

“We were less wasteful because we knew how much work went into getting the food,” she also commented.

The Extension Office will offer the Gardening with Children Class to Henry County childcare providers free of charge on Thursday, March 16 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Extension Office in Mt. Pleasant.

Providers outside of Henry County may attend for $10.

According to Sprouse, “During this training, childcare providers will engage in experiential-learning gardening activities through crafts, literacy, container gardening, and taste testing.”

Additionally, the course provides two hours of credit for childcare license renewal.

For more information about Preschool Produce Boxes, Pick A Better Snack and the Gardening with Children Class, call the Henry County Extension Office at 319-835-5116.

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