Ask A Farmer’s Daughter ~ Carnival of Natural Parenting

Welcome to the August 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Farmer’s Markets

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about something new they’ve learned about their local farmers.


This month’s topic for the Carnival of Natural Parenting is farmer’s markets, which many people would think would be an easy topic for me. But I have a confession: I don’t know all that much about them! Having grown up on a 13th generation family farm, I had no reason to visit farmer’s markets — I just went outside. Our area didn’t even have farmer’s markets until recently and people just went directly to the farms for farm-fresh produce. Though I am far from an expert on farmer’s markets, I do know a bit about local agriculture and family farms. I’m happy to answer questions from readers about growing up on a family farm and about what my life was like with this disclaimer: I speak from my own experiences growing up on a farm in Connecticut, where we have four seasons and diverse crops. I love farms but I’m not a farmer, and I no longer live on the farm (we live about 5 minutes away).

First, a little background. Until I was 25, I lived with my family on my dad’s family’s farm, which was settled by our ancestors from England in the 1640′s. During its history, the farm was mostly self-sustaining and diversified, and was transformed many times over the generations. It was a working dairy farm when my dad was growing up, but the dairy barn burned down in the 70′s when my parents were engaged and everything was lost. They reinvented the farm as an orchard and focused on produce, and throughout my lifetime our busiest season is the fall with apple picking, pumpkins, hayrides, corn and hay mazes, apple cider, animals… it is the quintessential small New England family farm in autumn. We have a farm market in which we sell our own produce and maple syrup, pies and baked goods, greenhouse plants, and Christmas trees. When I was in college, we added a creamery that sells frozen custard and frozen yogurt, pie by the slice, and sundaes topped with fresh seasonal fruit. I worked in the farm market and creamery until I about three or four years ago, and I still visit often and will occasionally help out when they need me.

My mom also comes from a family farm in a neighboring town, where her German grandfather settled just over 100 years ago. It was a dairy farm for many years and now they board horses and have trails for riding. While I didn’t grow up there, I did visit often and spent a lot of time there throughout my childhood. So, let’s get to the questions!

What time does the day really start and what does a typical breakfast look like?

This can depend widely on what type of farm it is and whether everyone works other jobs off the farm as well. For example, both of my parents grew up on dairy farms and got up to milk cows before breakfast and school. My maternal grandfather used to milk cows then drive the school bus, so you can imagine how early he had to get up! By the time I was a child, we didn’t have to milk cows before school. I worked in the farm market which opened at 8am, so we had to be ready to open by then. The family members who were picking crops were in the fields very early to beat the heat, and I was inside setting up the store, picking through produce and baking. At that time, a typical breakfast for me would be something from the farm market bakery like a muffin or cookie (I admit it!) and I also snacked on whatever fruit looked good. There’s a reason why they didn’t send me out to pick raspberries often!

What does a typical day look like in each season?

Every day is different, but I’ll summarize. The farm market is open from spring through Christmas, and the hours are currently 9-6 or 9-10 when it’s hot and the creamery is busy. So someone is working there. Animals need to be fed in the morning and at night, and some of the family works off of the farm during the day (my dad is a builder, my mom is a teacher) and some of the family stays on the farm all day. Something will break and there’s always something to work on.

Early spring is maple syrup season, so days on the farm consist of tapping trees, collecting sap and boiling it down to make maple syrup. Spring is also when babies are born and it’s typically a surprise when the new life will arrive. There’s time spend splitting wood to heat homes and for hot water. Further through spring there’s a lot of preparing and planting.

Summer is busy with harvesting and selling all of the crops at the farm market. The outside workers pick early to beat the heat, and the inside workers keep everything stocked and on ice, wait on customers, answer the phone, etc.

Fall is our really busy season, packed with visiting families. The day starts early and goes until dark, busy busy work. I remember spending entire days in the kitchen baking apple and pumpkin pies constantly and still not keeping up with the demand. I would throw a tray of tomato and cheese sandwiches into the oven for lunch and we’d all eat while we worked. Someone would be sorting and stocking apples, someone would be working in the pumpkin patch, someone would be giving hayrides and collecting money, and lots of us would be on the cash register. We occasionally did haunted hayrides around Halloween, so our days would go way past dark. It was so exciting to be out in the woods on a crisp October evening, with only the moon and our flashlights to light up our conversations between scaring the wagons that went by. Those days were long and tiring, and I can remember being thankful for school on Monday morning. There was a break between Halloween and Thanksgiving, then the pie business really picked up. I used to stay home from school and we’d bake 24 hours a day during the week of Thanksgiving. Definitely hard work, but also a lot of fun. (I’m realizing that I’m writing in past tense because it is in my past, but this is still reality for much of my family.)

Winter is a slow season with time to regroup. We close the farm market and this was a time to focus on fixing things, planning improvements and talking about ideas, spending time inside and pursuing other activities like basketball. Oh, and splitting wood. We spent every weekend splitting firewood for our wood furnace.

What age did you start helping out? What chores do you think are age appropriate for children?

My mom has a picture of herself picking strawberries with me on her back in a carrier. I honestly don’t remember a time when we weren’t helping out, though those roles changed over time. I just remember always being there with my dad and mom to help, there’s this feeling of all being in it together and depending on each other. Even a small child can help to think about solutions to a problem (my dad calls it Yankee Ingenuity) or can hold something, hand something over, pick something.  I think the chores that a child can do will depend largely on what needs to be done and the abilities of that child. For example, I was trusted on the cash register much sooner than I was trusted on a tractor, while the opposite was true for my brothers.

I’ve always been interested in how farmers and their families manage holidays and vacations when the farm/animals need daily attention.

That’s why farm families are so large! When my parents were kids and they were milking cows daily, they split family vacations. Half would go, half would stay home. Now, between all the siblings and cousins there are plenty of hands to do the work if someone wants to go away. However, there are times that you just don’t go away, like in the fall. Our animals are like a part of our family and are always a priority. In fact, I think my dad likes to use the excuse “I need to go feed the horses” to get out of events he doesn’t want to be at!

How much of the work is automated? How much is done the old-fashioned way?

Since we have a very diverse farm, it wouldn’t make financial sense to have everything automated since the machinery is specialized. Preparing fields is done with tractors but most planting and all pruning and picking is done by hand.

Do you have insurance in case it does not rain and crops get lost?

Nope! There is such a thing as crop insurance, but my dad is an old-fashioned Yankee and doesn’t believe in it. There are good years and bad years, but the good usually outweighs the bad.

How we can encourage more young people to consider farming?

I think there need to be more opportunities for young people to be active in and learn about farming and to value the work that farmers do. I think that in the last decade farming has become much cooler than it used to be, thanks in part to the local food movement. However, around here land is so expensive that young people who want to go into farming typically can’t afford to buy their own farm, so programs that allow them to do internships and learn from established farmers are important. It’s also important to realize that farming doesn’t have to look like what we imagine it to be, there are many different ways for people to be farmers.

What’s your least favorite part of farming?

Honestly, there’s a reason why I chose to go to college and become a teacher instead of staying on the farm! Farming is very physically demanding work. All of the farmers I know have worn out bodies, aches and pains. But they’re also healthy and tend to live a long life! I remember feeling really exhausted at the end of the day in the fall, and I remember wishing that I could play video games inside like my friends instead of helping stack wood or collect sap when there was snow on the ground. As a child, I hated that stuff. As an adult, I know how lucky I was to have those experiences.

Do you have a question that I didn’t answer? Leave it in the comments!


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon August 14 with all the carnival links.)

  • 10 Simple Ways to Make the Farmer’s Market More Fun for Kids — Lorie at Reading Confetti shares ideas and books to help kids get the most from the farmers market experience.
  • 10 Things I Want To Teach My Daughter About The Importance of Shopping at the Farmer’s Market — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares the ten lessons she hopes to impart to her daughter about the importance of shopping at local farmers markets.
  • Charmed by Two Small Town Markets — Shannon at GrowingSlower was charmed by two small-town farmers markets while on vacation.
  • The Olympia Farmer’s Market (and a giveaway!) — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes and family took a trip to their state capitol to experience a new market. See what they saw, and enter to win a book written about that very market.
  • On the Hunt . . . At the Farmer’s Market! — Exploring the farmers market by Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy writing at Natural Parents Network — with a scavenger hunt!
  • Exploring the Market … Alphabet StyleThat Mama Gretchen is in the midst of creating a learning tool for her toddler and it’s all about the market!
  • Unschooling at the Farmers Market — Megz at Aspen Mama loves building memories as a vendor at the Market.
  • Montessori-Inspired Vegetable Unit — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares links to Montessori-inspired vegetable printables and activities to help your family get the most out of a trip to the farmer’s market.
  • Markets — How sustainable mum has fitted a monthly farmers market into a weekly food shop.
  • The Farmers Market In Under An Hour (“Carl Style”) — Andrea and family at Tales of Goodness adapt their farmers marketing approach to make everyone happy.
  • Tales Of a Troubled Gardener — Sam at Love Parenting writes about her dream of self-sufficiency and her lack of gardening skills!
  • A Few {Of The Many} Reasons Why I Love Our Farmer’s Market — Even though the experience can sometimes be less than peaceful, MomeeeZen shares why she enjoys taking her family to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings.
  • Experiencing the Farmer’s Market from a Different Perspective — Emily at S.A.H.M. i AM had a great time letting her toddler lead the way at the farmer’s market…
  • Ask A Farmer’s Daughter — Abbie at Farmer’s Daughter answers questions about her life growing up on a small family farm in New England.
  • Giving Up the Grocery Store — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling shares her family’s summertime challenge to eliminate trips to the grocery store and rely almost exclusively on local, farm-fresh foods.
  • Urban farming and fresh food in the city — Lauren at Hobo Mama takes trips to farms, gardens, and markets within reach of a big city.
  • Market Tip: Get to Know Your Farmers — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger finally gets up the guts to talk to her farmers and learns she is among ardent food lovers.
  • New Farmer’s Market Find — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is excited to make a new find at her new farmers market.
  • “The Real World” Grassroots Edition — jessica at instead of institution takes some time out to write a love note.
  • 9 Insider Tips for Farmer’s Market Newbies — Dionna at Code Name: Mama chatted with a few farmers to bring you some insider information on how to get the most out of your local farmer’s market.
  • The Place Where I Can Say “Yes!” — Erica at ChildOrganics gives you a tour of her favorite vendors at her local farmers market and discusses the benefits of creating community through the market.
  • Raw Local Milk — Jorje shares her family’s field trip to a local dairy. Learn what you can appreciate from a small town farm at Momma
  • Italian Secret Vegetable Soup Recipe — Alinka at Baby Web convinces an Italian Farmer & Cook to reveal a precious minestrone recipe and shares it with her readers.
  • Where do our eggs come from? A visit to Sucellus Farms. — Carli at One Fit Mom takes her family to meet the chickens that have been providing their daily eggs.
  • Beyond the Farm — Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy and her family enjoy looking beyond the food at the local farmer’s market to see the wares of the over vendors.
  • Magic at the Market — Do you ever take time to really look at the food you eat? Amy at Anktangle enjoys marveling at the beauty (and the utility) of the foods and goods available at the farmers’ market.
  • Farmer’s Market Discoveries — Laura from Pug in the Kitchen reminisces about the discoveries she’s made at the Farmer’s Market throughout the years.
  • Are You Getting the Most out of Your Farmers’ Market? (My List of Not-So-Common “Musts”) — Sheila at A Living Family shares some uncommon ways to squeeze even more joy and connection (and yumminess!) from your local farmers’ market experience.
  • Pick Your Own And Eat It — Luschka from Diary of a First Child shares their trip to a PYO farm and the journey from picking to eating her favourite food
  • The Morris Tribe Blog Carnival
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    18 Responses to Ask A Farmer’s Daughter ~ Carnival of Natural Parenting

    1. Pingback: Italian Secret Vegetable Soup Recipe | Baby Web

    2. Pingback: Tales Of A Troubled Gardener | Love Parenting

    3. Pingback: Are You Getting the Most out of Your Farmers’ Market? (My List of Not-So-Common “Musts”) « alivingfamily

    4. Pingback: Montessori-Inspired Vegetable Unit |

    5. Pingback: Farmer’s Market discoveries |

    6. Pingback: The Farmers Market In Under An Hour (“Carl Style”) | Tales of Goodness - One Family's Journey Toward Responsible Spending, Responsible Consumption and Responsible Living.

    7. I love this post! You know how nosy I am and it’s just so great to read all these little bits of your life! And also… it puts me even more in the mood for Fall and getting to the orchard for fresh apple doughnuts!!!
      Laura recently posted..Farmer’s Market discoveriesMy Profile

      • Farmer's Daughter

        I love fall, too! Even though I want summer to drag on so I don’t have to go back to work, fall is definitely something I look forward to every year!

    8. Pingback: On The Hunt . . . at the Farmer’s Market | Natural Parents Network

    9. Sam

      I found this post so interesting – As a child I always dreamed of living on a working farm and thought it sounded so idyllic. I can see from your answers that it is incredibly hard work but also very fulfilling. I think that the best way to involve children in chores and family life is to give them a chance to do the things they can do and include them as you work which it seems was the way it was in your family too.
      Sam recently posted..Tales Of A Troubled GardenerMy Profile

    10. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences! It’s wonderful to have a peak into someone else’s world. There is a huge part of me that is a little bit jealous : ) And a part of me that knows it’s insanely hard work!
      Emily recently posted..Experiencing the Farmer’s Market from a Different PerspectiveMy Profile

    11. I am fascinated by your farming life! Has your family ever considered doing eco-tourism? (I think that’s the term – where people pay to come visit and help on the farm.) I’d love to have an NPN gathering at your place and get a behind the scenes tour :)
      Dionna @ Code Name: Mama recently posted..9 Insider Tips for Farmer’s Market NewbiesMy Profile

      • Farmer's Daughter

        I think agrotourism is the word! I doubt my family would do that, since it’s a fine line between what’s open to the public and what is their private home. It’s nice to have the evening hours alone without people there!

        And yes, I would love to have an NPN gathering there! Just say when you’re all willing to travel to CT!

    12. Pingback: Pick Your Own And Eat It | Diary of a First Child

    13. Great post and great blog! I always love to hear perspectives from New England farmers– and you’re right that farming has really become “cool” lately. I am starstruck by my farmers!

    14. Thank you for sharing this. Carl and I have been debating selling our suburban home and moving to a small farm for about a year now – and I’ve never really had my questions answered so “straight up” before. Very much appreciated.
      Andrea at talesofgoodness recently posted..The Farmers Market In Under An Hour (“Carl Style”)My Profile

    15. Yea — this is fascinating! Thanks so much for answering these questions. I can definitely see what you mean about farming becoming cooler lately, but also how it’s so much work and might be hard for city slickers (heh) to really comprehend from the outside if they were considering farming. I’m glad at least that we’re able to visit and get to know smaller farms like your family’s where so much is done personally and by hand. Thanks for sharing!
      Lauren @ Hobo Mama recently posted..Wordless Wednesday: First wordsMy Profile

    16. I am so glad I came back here to read this post. I too grew up on a farm but it was rezoned in such a way that we could only have small animals – chickens, ducks and rabbits, and we had a giant garden, but because I was very involved in 4-H I always envied the kids who lived on the “real” farms.

      What a great post – I learned a lot!
      Jenn @ Monkey Butt Junction recently posted..How Children Prepare us for Survival in the Zombie Apocalypse: Part TwoMy Profile

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