Well, OK, it wasn’t quite a “farm”, but we had 5 acres, horses, chickens, and a combine (or wheat harvester for those of you unfamiliar with agricultural terms). Surrounding us were wheat fields, herds of cattle, soybean fields, and as much red Oklahoma dirt as one could get in a town of 1500 that was only given a dot on the most detailed maps of the states (translation: A LOT of dirt). But I loved growing up there, and even though I complained and grunted and groaned about it, one of the most defining experiences of my youth was working in my mother’s vegetable garden.
This wasn’t just a small plot of dirt to grow some tomatoes, this was a Vegetable Garden, deserving of capitalization….and, in my 8-year-old mind: fear. A bit larger in size than a tennis court, we grew everything from lettuce to cucumber to potatoes. I can still recite the rows in my head, actually: leaf lettuce, radishes, green beans, okra, canteloupe, watermelon, corn, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, potatoes, sweet potatoes. And for a kid who would rather have been inside in the air conditioning all summer watching TV, hoeing weeds in a garden that large was pure punishment. Not even the taste of fresh cucumer salad or my Mom’s fried okra could make up for it, and I was so glad when she finally abandoned this project when I was around 12 yrs old.
While I was immersed in the work of the garden, it was hard to appreciate what I was learning. Of course, as in all things, hindsight is 20/20, and I now see the prospect of my own children growing up in suburban Dallas-Fort Worth with little respect or awareness of how food actually gets onto our table beyond the weekly trip to the grocery store. So, I decided to do a little investigation on my options for teaching my kids a little about where their food comes from.
Here they are, ranked in order of most educational to least, with links thrown in as I could find them. Fall is unfortunately not the best time to embark on some of these activities, but now that I know about them, we’ll be evaluating them for our house in the spring.
These are farms you visit and actually pick your own produce. A great family outing, plus your kids will get to see veggies and fruits as they come off the plant/vine/tree. Here are a few we’ve heard rave reviews about around the Dallas-Fort Worth area:
- Gnismer Farms, Arlington. The proximity of this farm, plus its size and variety of crops, make it a favorite. It’s closed now but will be open in October for pumpkin and sunflower picking. The picture to right was actually taken there during a MOL Mom’s family outing. Please check website for hours and crops:
- RJR Farms, Farmersville (Collin County). This brand-new U-Pick Farm in Collin County provides a variety of veggies on 2+ acres. Open through November. Updates their website weekly with what’s available:
Find more U Pick Farms, Orchards, Vineyards at these websites, both local to DFW and further afield across the US:
- PickYourOwn.org ()
- Local Harvest ()
Join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Initiative
CSA’s are a unique option to getting local food grown close to home. While they are nowhere near “mainstream”, they are growing fast as more families choose organically grown produce and also desire to support local family farmers to stay in business. CSA’s aren’t limited to produce, however; many offer eggs, dairy products, and even meat.
There are two ways CSA’s generally work: First option is you either find a group of people to create a co-op among yourselves, alternating responsibility for picking up your produce from the farm and bringing back to your group to split it out. A second option is that you go directly to the grower to join, and then pick up your produce from them at a designated point closer to your home (often in a suburban parking lot on a Friday afternoon or Saturday morning). The website, Local Harvest () has a great overview of the benefits and drawbacks of joining a CSA, plus a searchable database of area CSA’s.
From my own research, here are a few local farms that sell direct that you may want to investigate if you are interested in this option.
- Barking Cat Farms, Heath, TX. Barking Cat Farms focus on growing cut flowers, herbs & produce. Barking Cat Farm has two locations, one is located on small acreage in Rockwall County (the Heath location), with their main farm in Hunty County. Details on their CSA and other buying opportunities are on their website:
- Homestead Farms, Keller, TX. Homestead is owned by the 3rd generation to farm this same land. They strive to offer all your beef, poultry, and dairy needs in an earth-friendly and all-natural fashion. Details on their website: .
- SqueezePenny Sustainable Farm, McKinney, TX. Owned by a 30-year Collin County resident, this farm has a grand mission to provide sustainably grown produce to residents in Collin County to improve the environment and feed the hungry. Lots of details on their extensive website: .
- Windy Meadows Family Farm, Campbell, TX. The Mike and Connie Hale Family and their children have raised pastured chicken and grass fed beef and lamb on their 40 acres of Windy Meadows Family Farm for nearly twenty years. They serve several CSA’s and also sell at the Dallas Farmer’s Market on a rotating basis. Their website is: .
Other sites to check out for local CSA’s:
Shop at a Farmer’s Market
For many of us (yours truly included – at least until we get the kids out of diapers and sleeping through the night!), possibly the closest thing we’ll come to getting our children “back to the earth” is at one of the local Farmer’s Markets. But buyer beware – many of these markets are no more “local” than your neighborhood Kroger or other grocery store. If you feel very strongly about supporting your local farmer, I suggest you research the local farms on the Local Harvest website to see where they sell, then plan to hit their booth at the farmer’s market that’s most convenient to you.
For example, Windy Meadows Family Farm sells in Shed 2 at the Dallas Farmer’s Market. SqueezePenny sells at the McKinney Farmer’s Market. Lucky Layla Farms(artisan cheeses from their local area dairy) sells at area Central Markets, Sprouts, and other retailers as well as the McKinney Farmer’s Market.
For information about local area Farmer’s Markets, see the other article I wrote on this website on the subject, Your Unofficial One-Moms-Guide to Local Area Farmer’s Markets. I include unofficial, non-researched reviews of the ones I’ve been to as well as links to all of the others I could find.
Written by Rebekah Cooksey, Founder and Chief Executive Mom ofMomsOutLoud.com. While she doesn’t spend too much time gardening these days, she can’t resist photo opps for her kids on heavy farm machinery (see above) and still loves fried okra. She invites your comments, ideas, and other proof that someone is actually reading what she writes firstname.lastname@example.org.