I had no doubt that our trip to the LA County Fair would be a food-filled-day, along the lines of funnel cakes, churros and pizza. Yes, the day wouldn’t be the healthiest, but we were headed to the fair! When in Rome, right? My assumption, prior to arriving, was that any sort of blog post from me would be about the fried food at the county fair.
But alas, one exhibit changed my mind, as it educated my child on a big-picture food story in such a fun way that I just had to write about it.
It was an exhibit for kids, all about how food is grown, harvested and paid for, allowing farmers to earn money and provide for themselves, their families, their communities. It taught her all about the food-supply-chain. What a great lesson to learn! Instead of my child learning about this at school or at home, where I’m sure she would learn the steps that farmers take, this was a hands-on exhibit, hosted by The Learning Centers at Fairplex, who believe that “Education is as much a part of the Fair’s DNA as cotton candy, livestock and Ferris wheels.”
Our experience at the fair, up until we stumbled upon this exhibit, had been a relatively normal trip to a county fair, with my daughter feeding some sheep, checking out the other farm animals, such as pigs, cows and chickens. We had even seen a “Wild West” show, which was fabulous. It was extremely hot outside, upwards of 100 degrees. We were keeping hydrated, and with everything going on, we didn’t really have time to think about the heat. Everything changed when we walked under this sign:
When we first walked in, all we saw was a mini-grocery store, one perfectly sized for our almost-four-year-old. I told the kiddo that she could go walk around and pretend to go shopping (you could tell it was all for the experience, not real grocery shopping), but we were stopped by a staff member who told us the entrance to the whole exhibit was down a hallway to our left. I was intrigued, but I had no clue about how incredible and education my daughter was about to receive.
As we walked in, she was given two or three sunflower seeds, which she was supposed to plant in the soil you see here.
There were actually two large soil-areas in which to plant the seeds, and she was so excited to get to work! She had done this at home in a small pot, and her sunflowers are growing beautifully. But in this capacity, she could see how many more seeds are necessary for a farmer to plant. Yes, this would be a small farm in reality, but for a toddler, it was much bigger than what she is used to.
Next up was milking cows! No, not real ones. The cows and all other decorations were made of wood, but she could literally ‘milk the cows’ by squeezing what looked like rubber fingers from gloves with water or some sort of liquid in it. She was cracking herself up doing it, and it was such joy watching her get such a kick out of the process!
Once she was done milking her cow, it was time to get some eggs from the chicken coop, of course! A staff member was right there to provide her with a basket and show her how to get the eggs. Neither the eggs nor the chickens were real, but the whole place was decorated in such a realistic manner, even I had to do a double-take.
The same staff member who had assisted her in gathering the eggs instructed her in the next step, which was to go around the corner and pick one of each of the following: corn cob, vegetable from the garden and a piece of fruit from the trees. The whole time, I’m thinking, “What?! What garden? What trees??? This is so great!”
She proceeded to take one ear of corn off a cornstalk, which had been velcro-ed to the stalk, made of wood and painted. And then moved onto the garden, where she harvested an onion (all also not real). Lastly, she chose a lemon to pick from the lemon tree, which had been attached via velcro, as well.
Once she harvested and gathered her eggs, fruits and veggies, it was time to turn them in and get paid. And that she did. Upon receiving her basket of goodies, a staff member gave her a few dollars in play money and told her she could get three farmer’s market items around the next corner. At this point, it occurred to me that this “money” would be used at the grocery store we originally saw when we first came in. It wasn’t a grocery store! It was a Farmer’s Market. Amazing!
Once she had shopped for the three items she was told she could get, we made our way to the checkout stand, where I couldn’t help but take a picture of the two staff members who had helped make this exhibit come to life.
To top it off, she had such fun that as we exited the exhibit, she looked up at me and my husband and asked excitedly, “Can we do it again?!?” Of course we went through the whole exhibit once more and loved every second.