“What are these tiny cabbages??”

This was the question that both kids and parents asked after the Boys & Girls Club visited the Laurel Farmers Market on October 27th. The Laurel Farmers Market, just a few miles outside of Laurel, MT, was started by Greg and Leslyn Johnson 30 years ago this year. It took only one Saturday morning at the market for me to realize their farm would be a great experience for the kids at the Lockwood Boys & Girls club to see.

girls pumpkins

Initially, the Boys & Girls Club staff and I were only going to take third, fourth and fifth graders to the farm, but this group had so much fun the kindergarten, first, and second graders went a few days later. On the first bus ride to the farm, I was under the impression we would be picking some pumpkins and getting right back on the bus to the club. Little did I know that Leslyn had a lot more planned for the kids!

Leslyn met us at the bus with her enthusiasm for her farm apparent and delightfully contagious: she wore an apron printed with pumpkins and adorned a knit pumpkin hat when it got colder. The first thing we did instead of going to the pumpkin patch was a visit to the chicken coop. The kids fed the chickens while she taught them about the different types of chickens on the farm, the names she had given them, and the reasoning behind the many different colors of chicken eggs. After the chickens were fed, I thought we would be heading out to the patch, but before this we learned an important lesson: “You cannot judge a pumpkin by its size.” Leslyn talked about how all pumpkins are different shapes, colors and sizes and the weight all depends on how much stuff is inside the pumpkin. The kids were surprised by how even some small pumpkins can weigh as much as larger pumpkins.

Finally, we came to the point in the field trip that the kids and I were most excited for…picking pumpkins! As we made the quarter-mile walk to the patch, there were just two rules given about picking: only one pumpkin per person and everyone must be able to carry their own pumpkin back to the bus all by themselves. As we approached the patch I heard the kids exclaiming, “I have never seen SO many pumpkins!!” and “How many pumpkins are there??”

lil boy

Pumpkin harvest success.

It became apparent that most of the kids (and myself) had never seen a one-thousand-plus pumpkin patch. They were excited (and in some cases, overwhelmed) by the vast amount of choices! Everyone had a blast exploring amongst the pumpkins in the huge patch, finding pumpkins of all different sizes, colors and variety. Although all the kids got their pumpkins returning to the bus, a few of the younger club members had a tougher time on the way back with their bold choice of several eighteen pound pumpkins. Leslyn helped weigh all the pumpkins and let kids keep the pumpkin they picked regardless of whether they had brought money or not. With a family Halloween night in the very near future, the kids could not wait to carve and paint the pumpkins with their family.

As we were leaving the farm, Leslyn had one more surprise for us. She graciously donated produce from her farm for us to use, including kale, celery and “tiny cabbages” which were actually brussels sprouts. The stalk itself, with many brussels sprouts attached, stood over three-feet tall, which is taller than some of the kindergarteners! We ended the great day at the Laurel Farmers Market with lessons and exciting stories to tell that will last much longer than the pumpkins we picked.

The brussels sprouts stalk!

The brussels sprouts stalk!

This post was writhed by Kelsie Larson, the FoodCorps service member in Billings, MT. Kelsie is serving with the Lockwood Boys & Girls Club.