Preparing a Generation for Sustainable Ag: How to Talk to Your Children

At Gills Onions, so much of what we do and how we do it is because we are thinking about future generations. We employ sustainable farming practices and strive to minimize our impact on the environment. But we realize that some of the most important work for the rising generation is done by parents in their homes. 

Talking to children about where their food and clothing comes from and the importance of sustainable agriculture is essential. When a child appreciates the role of agriculture in their everyday life, they are more conscientious about their own impact on our earth and want to share what they’ve learned with others. That is the basis of true change. 

How do you talk to your children about agriculture and sustainability? How can you help them gain an appreciation and respect for this essential industry? Here are a few ideas. 

Do You Know Where Your Food Comes From?

Behind every piece of food you eat is a farmer. Farmers are also responsible for many of the clothes you wear, the carpets you walk on, the bedding you sleep with, and even the bandages you use when you’re injured. Agriculture keeps us alive, but farmers are one of the most forgotten groups of essential workers in our country. 

Starting a conversation on this important topic is simple. You may try asking your children, “Do you know where your food comes from?” or “We bought this onion at the store, but do you know where it came from before that?” 

Remember that a simple explanation is always best. Allow your children to lead the conversation and ask questions. Be honest and open, and if you don’t know the answer, say, “Let’s learn about it together.”

Fun Ideas for Learning About Agriculture

If you think agriculture is boring, think again! There are so many fun activities you can do with your children to learn more about farming, sustainability, and caring for our earth’s precious resources. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Go to the library and check out books about farming and agriculture. 
  • Look up your child’s favorite fruit or vegetable online and learn about how it grows and how it is harvested and brought from the farm to your table. 
  • Grow your own garden. You can even begin with a single potted plant in your windowsill. Teach children the basics of growing. 
  • Visit a local farm and learn firsthand from a real life farmer. 
  • Spend time on YouTube watching videos on growing and harvest crops (we use some pretty cool heavy machinery). You can even take virtual farm tours.
  • Conduct farming experiments. Expose plants to different nutrients and stimuli and observe how they react. 
  • Join a local farming co-op to try new vegetables directly from local farmers. 
  • Have children help plan family meals and shop for ingredients. 
  • Visit a farmer’s market and talk to the farmers about their goods. 
  • Visit a local pick-your-own fruits and vegetables farm. 

Healthy Habits Start with Food Appreciation

Obesity now affects 1 in 5 children and adolescents in the US. Part of encouraging children to develop a healthy relationship with food is being grateful for the food we eat. As children are exposed to a variety of fresh foods and are excited about trying new fruits and vegetables, they will develop healthy habits and positive associations with what they eat. 

And, as children think about caring and nurturing for the plants and animals that feed us, they will also think about sustainable ways to care for our planet and preserve it for their own children. 
We’re excited to partner with you as you delve into the exciting world of agriculture. Visit our blog for more ideas and information, and start by getting to know our farmers, Steve and David Gill.

We’re Carving More Than Just Pumpkins This Halloween

From online school to virtual grocery shopping, 2020 has been an unconventional year to say the least. As Halloween approaches, many pumpkin patches may be closed or have new restrictions due to COVID-19. Why not celebrate with a new, unconventional family tradition? 

Carving pumpkins is fine, but have you ever carved an onion? Or a pineapple? This year, instead of digging your hands into the usual orange slop, create a festive schmorgesborg of produce that you can put on display and turn into dinner later.

We’ve looked into the history of fruit and vegetable carving and found some awesome traditions to make our own this spooky season.

The Original Carved Turnip

One of the earliest origins of pumpkin carving stems from an old Irish tradition of carving turnips. Legend has it that a man named Stingy Jack (or Jack O’Lantern) made a deal with the devil and was cursed to roam the earth forever, using a hollowed out turnip and a burning coal to light his way. In homage to Jack O’Lantern, people began carving their own turnips and placing lights inside.

When Irish immigrants discovered the popularity of pumpkins in the United States and saw how easy they were to carve, the tradition evolved into what we now know as carving Jack-o-Lanterns. 

Summon Stingy Jack by carving a turnip, rather than a pumpkin this Halloween, by following these simple steps:

  • Select a turnip with a large enough surface area for a face, and draw a rough outline of your design.
  • Cut off the top of the turnip and set it aside—this will act as your lid later.
  • Score the inside of the turnip with a sharp knife, breaking up the root.
  • Scoop out the insides with a carving hook, melon baller, or spoon, leaving a ¼-inch thick border.
  • Use a precision craft knife to cut out the outline of your design.
  • Place an LED light or tea candle inside, top with lid, and watch your turnip come to life.

At Gills Onions, we love finding new and exciting uses for fresh produce—especially onions. Use this carving method to carve an onion (or other produce like radishes, beets, pineapples, or oranges) and share your spooky creations with us on InstagramTwitter, or Facebook

Fruit Carving Fit for a King

Another rich tradition of fruit and vegetable carving comes from Thailand. Thai fruit carving is an ancient skill that was once reserved for royalty, but has since been adopted by food artists around the world. This method focuses on carving fresh produce like cantaloupe, watermelon, papaya, cucumber, and carrots from the outer skin, in order to create a pattern on the food itself.

You may not be able to carve an intricate design fit for a king or queen into your produce, but you can definitely create some Halloween-themed art that will wow your friends on social media. Here are some ideas for how to get started:

  1. Select your fruits/vegetables. To avoid excess waste, try to pick foods you’ll want to eat later on. 
  2. Start by removing the outer rind by shaving your produce with a clay loop ribbon tool or vegetable peeler. (Pottery sculpting tools work great for carving produce and can be found easily online).
  3. Continue gradually shaving away at the surface until you’ve created your desired look. 

This method takes a lot of practice, so don’t get discouraged if your first attempt looks messy. 

There are so many great options for carving unconventional fruits and veggies this Halloween season (of course, we’re partial to onions), but however you decide to celebrate, be sure to have fun and stay safe.

Ready to try onions the Gills Way? For more information, contact our sales department