Of all the bountiful blessings that summer brings, fresh fruits must be on the top of the list. How refreshing it is to bite into a ripe, sweet and juicy melon, cherry, nectarine, peach or strawberry! Beyond the bliss of eating fresh fruits is the experience of picking your own from a plant that is bent down with the prime pick of the season. For those who have never experienced this exciting routine, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs nationwide are trying to bring the experience to you. People are rediscovering the benefits of buying local food. It is fresher than anything in the supermarket, meaning it is also tastier and more nutritious. It is also good for our local economy–buying directly from family farmers helps them stay in business. With CSA programs gaining rapid momentum across the US, families can afford to eat fresh, nutritious, healthy, seasonal, local food at a lower price than supermarkets.
One of the byproducts of buying fresh and local, whether through CSA programs or local farmers markets, is the relationship our families build with the farmers. Unlike back in the day when everyone knew everyone else, today, getting a response other than “hi” from the cashier in the supermarket checkout line is like pulling teeth. Now imagine a conversation where recipes are swapped while buying beets, or children are taught how to properly de-seed a pomegranate, or young ones engrossed as a wiggly worm coming out of an ear of corn is the main character of a story shared; all while buying your weekly groceries! Having a relationship of trust with your food producer is very important as food is what builds our self and hence our soul. If our quest is to eat Halal and what is good, as we are directed to, then here is the easiest route imaginable. Almost all the farmers will open their farms to inquiring minds and helping hands and that’s the experience we want our children to have. Fruit and berry picking is a great way to start, but our goal as our kids get older should be to show them the full cycle of farm to table foods and encourage them to get their hands dirty and grow their own.
Our family took a trip to go strawberry picking at a local organic farm. Apart from riding on a wagon, learning about organic food, tasting a raw green bean and discerning where the word “strawberry” is derived from, we were able to eat as many strawberries as we liked while picking a pound to take home. Once home, our strawberries made it into shakes, smoothies, salads and the grand finale: homemade ice cream! Seeing a strawberry go from a bunch of seeds to a plant, to a flower, to a red, ripe berry, to being transported to our home and become part of a meal has given my kids a taste of a lengthy, labor intensive and blessed process, kept in place by Allah. According to John Taylor Gatto, former teacher and leading advocate on educating our own children, growing, cooking and eating our own food is an important step towards getting a real education.
It’s also important to note that unless our children get dirty and work with dirt, they will not be able to connect with it. After all we are from dirt and will return to it. We need to equip our children with an understanding of nature, from an early age, so they can grow with and connect to their environment and become it’s guardians, just as we have been commanded to. May all our families learn the value and blessings of our world in order to take care of it and deal with it justly.
Here are some resources that will help you find fruit-picking and CSA opportunities in your area:
Shaheen Rasheed is a homeschooling mother of four, residing in CA. She consults families interested in homeschooling and runs a blog on parenting and homeschooling issues. Check out www.soulfulstudies.wordpress.com to read more of her work.