Hillsdale Farmers Market develops program to entertain children during weekly event

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Fresh produce is a staple of the farmers market and kids can learn about it every week.

Earlier this year, Hillsdale Farmers Market personnel realized the market was missing a key ingredient to its weekly festivities that was only indirectly related to

fresh produce, artisanal products or food carts. Instead, a space for children to learn about the market and be entertained while their parents shop was sorely missing. So, in April, they developed a youth-oriented program, which has expanded since its inception. "In April, it started as a pilot for the summer and see how it goes. They were super well-received and people were super excited for them," Hillsdale Farmers Market Assistant Manager Jacqui Stork said. From 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. every Sunday, the farmers market offers crossword puzzles, word searches and a scavenger hunt — where participants scurry around the market, talk

to vendors and find designated items to win prizes — for 4-12-year-old children. Stork said that during the hunt, children learn about farming, the rigorous schedule of farmers and the seasonality of produce, among other tidbits. According to Stork, it's the most popular activity. "They're super jazzed about

the scavenger hunt," Stork said. "When we have something that encourages them to go into the booth and talk to the farmers, they love that. And the farmers love that too. You can see the wheels turning in their heads. 'This is a lot of work.' And there's more of an appreciation and excitement for it." The market also features a

plant eating challenge, where participants try to eat all of the plant-based foods listed by market staff within a month. Prizes are awarded to those who complete the challenge, which is mostly for kids but adults have participated as well. "When people are seeking out new foods they are probably seeking out new vendors, which is sort of a win-win," Stork said. Stork said the market is looking to take the initiative to the next level by adding bag and poster design contests and formalizing the program so that it is part of the Power of Produce initiative, which was developed by the Farmers Market Coalition and includes a wider array of activities. "One of the great things for us even though it (Power of Produce) is now a national program, it was first developed at the Oregon City market," Stork said. "We have a great example of how to do this successfully and make it something that would be good for our community, which is awesome." While farming education is an added bonus, Stork said parents are mostly excited about enjoying the farmers market while knowing their kids are having a good time as well. "I think they're (parents) definitely excited about the kids learning more," Stork said. "The biggest thing is having their kids entertained and interested while they're shopping."

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