A local farmer and a food service worker have teamed up to teach kids there’s more to food than just eating it.
Tricia Bowers and Stacey Driver are showing a younger generation the value of knowing where food comes from through a series of classes at Girls Inc. of Jackson County in Seymour.
The classes feature recipes using locally grown foods that can be purchased at the Seymour Area Farmers Market.
On Friday, the class made cinnamon-glazed popcorn using popcorn grown by the Bowers family and honey they cultivate from their own beehives in Cortland.
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The class, which included about 10 girls, also made a refreshing melon slushy using watermelon grown in Jackson County. In a previous session, they created food portraits with fruits and veggies.
All three classes took place in the Girls Inc. kitchen.
Before they started cooking Friday, Bowers showed a video highlighting her family’s farm and the hard work it takes to produce food.
The rewards of that work, however, include having their own beef, wheat, flour, eggs, vegetables, fruits and honey, she said. The family also grows the hay and corn they use to feed their livestock.
What they don’t eat themselves, they share with family and friends and sell at the farmers market, Bowers said.
The Plumer and Bowers Farmstead is among the dozen or so vendors that set up at the farmers market in downtown Seymour on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Each of the girls participating in Friday’s class got to help with one of the steps of the recipes, from measuring ingredients to mixing and blending.
Since most kids these days eat popcorn popped in the microwave, they were fascinated by the hot air popper and real popcorn kernels, Bowers said.
“You would have thought it was something new,” she said. “But popping it this way is much healthier because you can control what goes on it.”
After the girls coated the popcorn with a mixture of butter, honey, cinnamon, ground ginger and salt, it was then baked. Many of the girls said it tasted better than store-bought popcorn, although some thought it needed a little more salt.
The watermelon slushy, which was made with frozen watermelon, ginger ale and frozen limeade concentrate, didn’t go over as well.
“I don’t like it,” said Keira Linville, 9. “It’s hard to drink because it’s lumpy, and it has seeds in it.”
In return for their participation, each girl received $5 worth of Sprout Bucks. The certificates are redeemable at the farmers market for fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, meat, honey, cheese or butter.
Aubrey Washbush, 7, said she would like to use the Sprout Bucks to buy something “yummy.”
“Food that comes from the farm tastes better,” she said.
Sprout Bucks also have been distributed at schools, the library and community events, Driver said. Driver, a registered dietitian, is director of food services for Seymour Community School Corp. and is a volunteer on the farmers market committee.
“We wanted to get more people, especially children and families, interested in coming to the farmers market and to encourage them to eat locally grown foods and more nutritious foods,” Driver said.
By purchasing and consuming food from the farmers market, people are eating healthier and helping to support local farmers and growers, she said.
Many of the girls said they had been to the farmers market at least once.
Aubrey said her favorite food there is sweet corn.
She was surprised to learn the Bowers family gets its honey from beehives.
Driver said the classes help make nutrition more interesting and fun and promote the farmers market.
Around $100 worth of Sprout Bucks have been redeemed so far this season, Driver said. The market also accepts WIC vouchers and SNAP benefits (formerly called food stamps).
The market was reorganized this year to increase the quantity and variety of vendors and products, including baked goods, homemade crafts, soaps and hot food.
Also added this year was a book wagon, where children and adults can purchase used books for $1 each with proceeds supporting the market and the Friends of the Jackson County Public Library.
The Seymour Area Farmers Market will close Oct. 28.
Locally Grown Cinnamon-Glazed Popcorn
4 cups plain popcorn (¼ cup kernels)
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons honey
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a saucepan, melt butter and honey together over low heat. Add cinnamon, ginger and salt.
In a large bowl, coat the popcorn with the cinnamon glaze.
Spread popcorn on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake for four minutes. Stir and bake for two minutes longer.
Continue to stir every minute until lightly toasted.
The popcorn will be slightly wet out of the oven but will harden as it cools.
Farmers Market Melon Cooler (serves eight)
8 cups of ½-inch watermelon cubes
1½ cups ginger ale
1/3 cup water
1 6-ounce can frozen limeade concentrate
Place watermelon cubes in a single layer in an extra large zippered storage bag and freeze for eight hours. Let stand at room temperature for five minutes.
Process half each watermelon, ginger ale, water and limeade concentrate in a blender until smooth. Pour into a pitcher.
Repeat step two with remaining ingredients and stir into pitcher. Serve immediately.