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Winning the War: A 5 year old’s day on an organic farm

April 29, 2010

This story demonstrates some of the challenges to eating locally and shows that, despite the best intentions, a good sense of humor is sometimes the only way to go.  Written by Sarah Pitts, a local food enthusiast and Minnesota Project volunteer.


I am thoroughly committed to teaching my kids about the benefits of eating healthy, of organic produce, and experiencing the joy that is eating good, fresh and local food –  ideally even knowing the people that produced it.  I had this amazing experience as a child growing up on my family’s fruit farm in Southwest Michigan.  There is nothing better than crunching into a fresh apple, just plucked from a tree. There were some days I’d almost make myself sick on concord grapes I would eat so many.  So, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to take Andrew to Riverbend Farm Days, where a group of volunteers head to an organic farm and play farmhand.  This venture is coordinated by 3 powerhouses of sustainable, local food consumption in Minneapolis—Lucia’s, The Birchwood Café and Common Roots Café—with one of their suppliers, Riverbend Farm, and sustainable food guru Lee Zukor of the blog Simple, Good and Tasty. This event will take place the last Saturday of every month through the summer.  Riverbend Farm is an organic farm located west of the cities in Delano. What a great opportunity in which my son and I could enjoy some quality time together while learning first hand the work that is involved in bringing good food to our table and our bodies.

Photo Credit: Riverbend Farms

It’s a very pretty drive from Minneapolis.  Unfortunately, it’s a fairly long drive for my five year old who needed to stop by a McDonalds for a break.

We stopped and Drew noticed with apparent desire a poster marketing the snazzy plastic Hot Wheel car in their Happy Meal. I drove us out of there before the whining set in.

We had a wonderful time, despite the rainy weather.   The farm was picturesque, especially with the gray clouds surrounding the fields and the old barns.  A rooster was crowing. The turnout was good despite the rain and the group was energetic to get started.  Riverbend’s owner Greg put us all to work planting onions in one of the fields.  Drew “helped me” plant about 20 onion plants in the ground and by “helped,” I mean ordered me around and then tromped off with several other kids his age to play duck duck goose, tag, jump in and out of the back of the red pick up truck which held warm coffee for the group.  In a field, they even discovered several of last year’s sunflower plants 3 times the length of their little bodies and started dragging their dried carcasses all around with them.  Two hours went by and my son looked like a huge ball of mud with his Spiderman rain boots sticking out.

Image Credit: Riverbend Farms

It was right when the work was winding down for lunch that the trouble began.  Lunch was to be a beautiful and organic feast supplied by Common Roots.  It looked wonderful and I must admit, one of the reasons that I wanted to come was the ability to have a yummy lunch provided from a favorite place. Right before the group adjourned for the eats, disaster struck!  I would be lying to say that I was keeping close tabs on my kid.  I mean, how much trouble could he get into with a dried old sunflower as his weapon?  While I was paying more attention to a bundle of onion plants versus the antics of the five year old set, one of the group was pushed out of the bed of the truck where they were playing—possibly on purpose.  We will never be sure.  There was no physical damage done, but pride and feelings were a little wounded.  When the afflicted was sent to sit in the cab of the pickup to recover, Andrew–of course—wanted a turn to sit behind the wheel and was not pleased when he was told no.  It all deteriorated from there.

We walked back to the building from the field.  I tried every angle to cheer up my son–empathy, humor, distraction, anger, and ultimatums.  He felt he’d been wronged!   Framed for the pushing!  Denied access to the cool red truck!  Misunderstood!  Fearing that he was going to be rude to a crowd of people I had just met and knowing him well enough to understand that we were on the verge of a Serious Meltdown I made the mistake of asking him what he wanted to feel better.  Well, it wasn’t the beautiful, organic, sustainably produced meal I was so looking forward to us experiencing.  It was the Happy Meal… with the Hot Wheel Car.

As I drove away from Riverbend Farm, away from the interesting people I would have loved to chatted with more, away from the fabulous meal that I witnessed being set out upon our departure, and away from the lesson of the day for Andrew of “see, this is where our food comes from and it’s hard work, but its wonderful and most nutritious when it’s fresh and organic!,” guilt washed over me.  As I sat in the McDonald’s watching Drew zoom his new car over the table while eating a fully processed hamburger and greasy fries, I wondered if I should have taken a bigger stand against his Happy Meal, even if it would have spelled tears.  I’m not sure what the right answer is, but I do know that, due to the plastic gimmick (which broke on the way home), the Golden Arches might have scored a point that day.  I’m willing to lose a battle to win the war. Because Riverbend Farm Days happens the last Saturday of every month this summer, I am going to try again. This time, hopefully we will make it through to the yummy end!

For those interested in joining the fun of Riverbend Farm Days, please visit Simple, Good and Tasty, where I signed up for this adventure. And hopefully, you are able to avoid the McDonald’s in Delano on the way!


3 Comments leave one →
  1. Favorite Aunt Kathy permalink
    April 30, 2010 12:10 am

    I am stunned that any five year old would not be fully able to realize the multitude of benefits to be had by totally engaging in the organic farm experience…especially since said child instead chose to sell his little soul to Beelzebub Ronald McDonald!!! How can I tell all my earth-loving ,home-birthing, uber-politically correct, CSA-supporting, flower-child Californian friends and family that my very own great nephew committed such a grievious sin!!! He could AT LEAST have chosen the chicken nuggets!! Excuse me while I drown my shock and sorrow in a 32 oz. wheatgrass smoothie with a seaweed puree chaser and come to terms with this unfortunate reality in my life.

  2. Brent permalink
    April 30, 2010 2:07 am

    Where I think the whole day got derailed was when you stopped in the McD’s in the first place. I think it is worth seeking out another bathroom. One where they don’t unabashedly market their slop to children. Maybe a deal to get a hotwheel car from the store would have kept you on the farm.

    The further away you keep your kids the better, always.

  3. Trisha Pitts permalink
    April 30, 2010 2:24 pm

    What a wonderful, funny and delightful description of your outing, Sarah!! I can see it all happening, especially since I know you and Andrew so well. I understand it, too. Keep plugging away. I bet the day will come when Andrew prefers the organic approach!

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