About the Holiday
National Farm City Week aims to raise awareness of America’s farmers and ranchers, who “dedicate their lives to promoting our nation’s agricultural abundance and environmental stewardship.” During this week we take the opportunity to support the crucial relationship “between farms and families and work to ensure farming remains an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable way of life for future generations.” It is through the hard work of farmers and their enterprises—both large and small—that the country’s health and well-being are maintained.
On the Farm, At the Market
By G. Brian Karas
On the Farm
On the Monterosa Vegetable Farm Leo and his workers are preparing for tomorrow morning’s farmers market. “Some vegetables are packed up tonight, while others will be picked early tomorrow. The workers know that greens are best picked soon after the sun rises, when temperatures are still cool.” When the vegetables are picked, they’re washed, packed into crates and loaded into trucks. After the sun has set and before going home, Leo ensures everything is ready for the morning. “He snaps a bean in half and tastes it. ‘Perfect,’ he says.”
Meanwhile at the Amazing Cheese Dairy Farm, Isaac is teaching Rachael how to make their delicious cheese. First, milk must be converted into curds. Isaac shows Rachael just how to stir the warming milk with a special paddle. Once the curds are formed, Rachael scoops them out of the vat and puts them into molds and then on shelves to age. Tomorrow, the Amazing Dairy Farm will be bringing mozzarella, queso blanco, and cheddar to the market.
Gary’s farm is all indoors. He is a mushroom farmer, and his crops grow in a special room, sprouting on ‘cakes’ placed on shelves and from plastic bags that hang from the ceiling and give the room a feeling of being in a forest. The cakes and bags are filled with a “mixture of hay, sawdust, and water” that give the mushrooms nutrients. The air in the room is misty and cool. To prepare the mushrooms for market, Gary trims them with scissors and snugs them into foam crates.
At the Market
Early Sunday morning the farmers assemble in the parking lot that sponsors the farmers market. They each erect a tent and tables, struggling with the wind that fills their tents “like balloons.” The market manager, Sharon, offers cups of hot chocolate to all of the workers while “friends catch up with one another.” At 10:00 customers begin to arrive, perusing the tables of their favorite farmers.
Amy, owner of the Busy Bee Café, scouts ingredients for her delicious menu. From Leo, she chooses Swiss chard, leeks, and tomatoes. In no time the number of customers has grown, and long lines appear at each farmer’s table. Babies and children enjoy the relaxed atmosphere as well as “farm-fresh ice cream and cookies,.” Friends chat, happy to see each other again. Food isn’t the only attraction at the farmers market. Soon, the Blackberry Fiddlers set up on stage to provide entertainment.
Next, Amy stops by the Amazing Cheese Farm stand and picks up a wheel of cheddar for that night’s special. “‘What’s for dinner at the Busy Bee tonight?’ Isaac asks. ‘One way to find out,’ Amy says, and winks.” Last, Amy visits Gary’s Mushrooms and buys some of each type. Peering into Amy’s basket, Gary can guess what Amy’s special of the day will be. “‘Should I save you a seat?’ Amy asks him. ‘You bet,’ Gary says.”
At the end of the day, the crowd has thinned. The farmers begin packing up their leftovers and taking down their tents. The camaraderie of market day continues at the Busy Bee Café, however, where the Blackberry Hill Fiddlers have set up once again and the farmers, their families, and their customers have gathered to enjoy Amy’s special Market Pie.
Brian Karas’s charming visit to farms and the farmers market is both educational and heartwarming. With emphasis on the loving care both the farmers and the café owner display toward the crops and their use, On the Farm, At the Market is a wonderful introduction for young children to the farm-to-table movement. Karas’s descriptions of three distinct farming methods are clearly explained with engaging characters that kids will embrace. The structure of the book—divided into two sections and offering interconnecting stories—is well chosen to explain the relationships among the farmers, families, workers, and customers.
Karas’s homey gouache, acrylic, and pencil illustrations are perfectly suited to his subject. Colorful two-page spreads of the farms and market, combined with smaller snapshots of particular processes and special moments, allow readers to fully understand the concepts as they enjoy the inclusiveness of this tight-knit, supportive community. There is a peaceful wistfulness to the muted image of Leo standing in the waning twilight, happy with a day well-spent; a sense of wonder in the misty atmosphere of Gary’s mushroom farm; and a palpable excitement as customers gather at the farmers market. The final scene at Amy’s Busy Bee Café offers a glowing conclusion to this cyclical story.
Ages 4 – 9
Henry Holt and Co, 2016 | ISBN 978-0805093728
To learn more about G. Brian Karas and his work, visit his website!
Farm City Week Activity
Farmers Market Coloring Page
Farmers markets are so beautiful with all the different colors of the fruit and vegetables in the stands, the festive tents, and all the customers mingling and shopping. Grab your pencils or crayons and create your own vivid picture with this printable Farmers Market Coloring Sheet!
Picture Book Review