Field Trip: Virginia Beach Farmers Market

So, after two consecutive snow days, I’d say our first day back was pretty awesome.  We went to the Virginia Beach Farmers Market to celebrate and wrap-up our Ox-Cart Man quarter.  When I spoke to our guide on the phone while planning this trip, I thought maybe she’d talk to us about how the market works, show us some vendor stalls, show and discuss antique farm tools and help us make connections to the book, let us take a tour of the grounds, etc.  Certainly, I expected a great trip chock-full of learning opportunities.  I had also originally planned our trip for an earlier date in December (you know, when it was almost 60 degrees outside – not 20!), so I was a little nervous about how we would weather the temperature today.

It was AMAZING!

First, we were just about the only people there.  The VA Beach Farmers Market is a rather large place, and I imagine that during the warmer season, when there are tons of vendors out, it must be PACKED.  Today, it felt like the whole market belonged only to us!  When we arrived, Ms. Terri met us at the agriculture center and invited us inside.  Yes, that’s right – INSIDE.  Where there was HEAT!  Praise the Lord!  The children were given a large carpet to sit on, and the adult chaperones were granted comfy chairs.  We realized that we were immersed in farm culture from the salted hams hanging from the beams to the antique farming equipment displayed on the walls.  From there, Ms. Terri taught us all about the different stages of plant growth, and showed us examples of seeds (strawberries), roots (potatoes), stems (asparagus), and flowers (broccoli) that we eat every day.  The firsties were shocked to discover that even bananas have seeds!  She showed us several vegetables that many firsties had never heard of, such as artichokes and beets, and discussed the different parts of agriculture, including fishing (we got to see and touch real oyster shells) and textile production (the firsties enjoyed searching for the seeds in bolls of cotton).

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Next, Ms. Terri explained that farm children often had many responsibilities each morning before they could go to school.  The firsties enjoyed six different stations, representing the chores that children might have had to do.  At one station, firsties practiced milking a (fiberglass) cow, working the udder to produce streams of “milk” into a galvanized bucket.

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At another, firsties used a washboard and washtub to scrub dirt out of pieces of cloth.  Usually the wet clothes would be hung on an outside clothesline; however, due to risk of FREEZING, Ms. Terri kindly set up a drying rack for the cloths to dry.  Check out the vintage Maytag with manual ringer in the background.  After watching the firsties do laundry today, I sure feel blessed by my LG Frontloader!

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At a third station, firsties ground corn into cornmeal.  Ms. Terri demonstrated how the corn would be shucked manually from the cob, but due to the blades inside, firsties could not complete this part of the station.  Once shucked, the pieces of corn were poured into a grinder and firsties turned the crank to grind the corn!  We also learned that the most finely ground bits of the meal are fed to baby chicks.  Awwwww!

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At a fourth station, students used a glass churn to churn cream into butter.  Ms. Terri was surprised to learn that we churned our own cream into butter in class during our Ox-Cart Man study, and then enjoyed it with homemade waffles and maple syrup.  Using the churn was MUCH faster (shaking the cream in a jar required about 460 shakes – we counted).

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At the fifth station, students pretended to shop a farmers market by choosing different fruit and vegetables (both pretend AND real) from a stand and weighing them on a scale.

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The sixth and final station allowed students to germinate a soybean seed using water, a cotton ball, and the children’s own body heat.  That’s the necklace your child was wearing around his or her neck when he or she got home today.  🙂

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Once each child had a turn to try everything, we headed out of the station room and over to the shops.  Ms. Terri showed us a huge platform where farmers and local merchants drive right up in their trucks and display their products.  We walked just a little farther and entered (heat!) my favorite shop – the bakery.  Oh. My. Word.  There were cakes, cookies, pies, roasted chickens, freshly baked breads, rolls, and tarts.  I think I drooled a little.  The baker introduced himself, and his wife, and chatted with the firsties about the ingredients he most often uses in his baking.  We were surprised to learn that he uses a lot of sweet potatoes!  We also toured an old fashioned candy store which was located inside the bakery (I think the firsties drooled a little) and then headed out to our next stop.

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At the butcher shop, which REALLY smelled a lot like raw meat – gag – the firsties learned about where the meat we eat really comes from.  We also learned that this particular butcher sells some unique items, so if you get a hankering for ostrich or kangaroo, this is where you need to shop.  😉

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Our last (and best) stop was the creamery.  At the creamery, workers sell fresh milk and cream, and make delicious, homemade ice cream.  We each got to taste a scoop, and WOW.  There is just nothing better!  What a perfect end to our trip!

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Overall, we learned a lot and had a great time.  It was a fabulous way to wrap up our Ox-Cart Man study.  Ms. Terri gave us a parting gift of a set of coloring books, fitness and nutrition information, and smarties (from the candy shop).  One firstie asked if we could “come back tomorrow.”

If you would like to check it out, I highly recommend you do.  Tomorrow they are salting hams.  Many firsties were extremely interested!