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The ABCs of…Farming for Children M-R

The ABCs of Farming for Children2

Welcome to the third part of our The ABCs of…Farming for Children series, where we take a look at how you can use farming as an educational tool to learn through playing (and of course actually doing it). If you missed our two part, please click here for A-F and here for G-L.

MMilk – Cow juice is one of the staples in the farming culture and one of the products that is mostly connected with farms. And it is not just cow’s milk you can get, but goat, sheep and even horse. You can drink it right then and there, but one innovation throughout the centuries was pasteurization to make it safe to drink the milk without any potential bacteria in it.

Manure – It is stinky business, but any farm with animals produces manure, the excrement of the animals, which is usually used in turn to fertilize the fields. So even if there are no animals around, farms might actually buy manure in order to fertilize. Manure contains plenty of nutrients for fields and crops (similar to the plant-based compost) and helps farmers to grow their crops.

Mouse – She does not necessarily serve any really big purpose, but can be found on each and every farm, sometimes even inside the farm, but mostly in the stables and the haylofts.

Meat – So meat comes from animals and animals come from…exactly, the farm. While it is never easy to slaughter an animal that you have known since birth, it is part of life on the farm, be it to sustain your own family or sell the meat for profit, so you can get a new machine or something else fixed. Many farms still raise their livestock the traditional way, without the use of growth hormones, antibiotics etc. Again this is a good lesson for children to see, where their food comes from, even though it also has the risk of them seeing the animals and not wanting to eat their meat anymore, so tread carefully…

NNatural – Isn’t that what food should be? If you have a farm or a farmer’s market close by, you have a chance to buy produce, meats and breads from the farmers, made by them from the ingredients they grew themselves, it will hardly get much fresher and probably also hardly much healthier than that.

Needs – Farming takes care of one of the main needs of mankind – food. Just think about it – without farms producing food to buy in markets and grocery stores, we would be pretty hungry. So it is a very important life lesson for children to be able to see, where the food actually comes from, that there is more to it than just going to the store and buying something off the shelf.

OOnion – A staple in almost every country’s cuisine, the onion is both a very tasty and a very feisty kitchen companion. It comes in several varieties and can be used both raw and cooked, but almost all of them have one thing in common – they fight back by making you cry when cutting them (which, btw, is caused by a fairly complex chemical reaction that is started when onion cells are broken).

Organic – In times, where big agricultural corporations use growth hormones, steroids, antibiotics and genetically modified organisms to maximize production, organic farming has received a very big boost by gaining consumers’ trust by using natural methods to rear livestock and grow fruits, vegetables and grains.

PPeppers – There are many different kinds of peppers that are cultivated, from the “harmless” bell peppers to the fiery kinds of jalapeno, habanero or ghost pepper. Just like onions, many of them can be used both raw and cooked, they can be chopped, sliced, filled and much more, rich in vitamins and antioxidants (especially the red bell pepper) they are an excellent addition to your diet.

Pig – When children think about farms, most of them think of pigs. Pigs eating everything, rolling in mud, being dirty – pigs actually are very clean animals, they only defecate in a certain area of their sty, but they still love their mud :).

Planning – Planning is a very crucial part in running a farm, since you have to calculate cost, time and manpower in order to maximize the efficiency. Certain crops can only be planted at a certain time of the year, because otherwise it might be too warm, too cold, too dry or too wet, you have to calculate the time for harvesting and being able to have the manpower to do so, monitor your stocks of fertilizer, seeds etc. You also have to plan your day in order to make sure that you do not forget anything or cause delays for the animals, which are all used to a certain rhythm of feeding, milking etc. All of this makes farming a fairly complex matter, which is a role model in time management and planning overall, which gives children a very good insight in what it takes to keep everything working.

Planting – In order to harvest, you have to plant and there are different ways of doing so. You can plant seeds or you can plant already existing plants or trees, for them to grow and do their thing until it is time to harvest. Children love to plant things and then watch them grow and experience that something they put into the earth is growing into something looking very different to what it looked like when they put it in. Check out our post on Nico planting a tree!

Plow – The plow is one of the most important pieces of equipment on a farm, since it is used to dig the “trenches” that the seeds are going to go into. It started with man-pulled plows, then horse and ox drawn and finally attachments to a tractor to make it easier and faster to get several of them dug to expedite the sowing process. If you want to do a little farming in your backyard, you can have your child do it with a little shovel.

Pumpkins – Many children know pumpkins only as what is used for the jack-o-lanterns, but they are a very nutrient-rich vegetable that can be used in soups, in ragouts, cakes, muffins, pies, the dried seeds can be eaten as is or roasted, in breads or as garnish, so it is a very versatile vegetable that just has the added bonus of being very decorative as well. Have a look at Housing A Forest’s post on a surprise they found within a pumpkin.

Potatoes – What would a farm be without potatoes? These “apples of the earth”, as they are called in many languages, are robust, fairly easy to grow and they are an accompaniment for many dishes, come in shape of French fries, potato chips, mashed, roasted, cooked and more. They used to be one of the main foods, since they were easy to grow and are filling, so a good way to satisfy hunger for a relatively small price.

QQuilt – You might wonder, what people on farms were/are doing during their very limited spare time. One of the most beautiful things are quilts, which usually consist of two layers of fabric and one layer of batting in between for insulation, so to say. Back in the “old days”, buying fabric was expensive and making your own very time consuming, so it was important to preserve whichever fabric you could salvage from old blankets and clothes. So they used leftovers to arrange them into patterns and sometimes even pictures and sewed them together creating throws for the bed or just plain decoration with leftover fabric scraps.

Quality – Natural farming has lots of advantages over many of the commercial and even more so the processed options. Many farmers take pride in the quality of their products and we can greatly benefit from people, who put the emphasis on the right methods to ensure that only the best (and healthy) products are sold.

RResponsibility – With tending to animals and plants also comes great responsibility, since the farmer has to make sure that they are fed, watered, tended to. Also equipment has to be kept up and employees have to be paid and taken care of. A good way for your children to learn some related responsibility is to have them plant a flower or some carrots or something like this in the spring and have them take care of the watering, the weeding and in the end the harvesting, they’ll love it and be at it every day!

Rooster – Traditionally the rooster did not just have the job of being around the chickens, but the crow of the rooster in the morning really was used as the alarm clock for many people on the farm. Usually at the crack of dawn it would let out it’s characteristic cockadoodledoo (or cocorico in French or kikeriki in German) and wake everybody up and get them going.

Rain – As I had mentioned earlier under irrigation, water is the central most important thing, not just on a farm, and rain in many cases is a farmer’s best friend, since it brings much needed water to the fields (unless, of course, there is too much of it). Many farms also collect rainwater in big barrels to use for watering instead of having to use their wells, since the water is perfectly fine. You, too, can collect rainwater at home and use it for watering of plants or washing your car.

Resource – A farm is a highly important resource for food and other products that are required to keep the world turning. For many economies worldwide, farming is an elementary source of income and their economy overall, the American Midwest and the Canadian prairies are supplying much of the grain and other agricultural crops for their whole respective countries.

Check back tomorrow for the last part from S to Z!

Overall there are more than 70 bloggers participating in this series, covering all kinds of topics related to children. Below you can find the rest of the participants in the “Learning through play” category, or you may want to browse through the entire series.

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