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Flavors: Learn Young About Our Bounty at Yellowstone Valley Farmers Market

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Cierra Coppock
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When going through the Flavors Under the Big Sky archives, I discovered that this blog was never posted for the show that aired in the summer of 2016. The Yellowstone Valley Farmers Market is about to end for this season, but I wanted to reshare this story about the great resource we have here in Billings. Mostly, I wanted to encourage parents to bring their children to the market and grocery stores, and let them see, taste, touch, smell and experience the bounty from Mother Nature.

As bells ring to open Farmers Markets around the country, patrons will have the opportunity to savor the summer’s bounty at its prime. This is when the season’s fruits and vegetables shine at their most delicious state, and is the perfect time to introduce not only adults to the harvest but also to children.  For vendors, they have the chance to really get to know what they have grown and are selling, explaining to shoppers how to prepare and cook their wares. 

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Credit Cierra Coppock
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Market Master Bob Wicks rings the Yellowstone Valley Farmers Market bell, opening this Saturday's market under SkyPoint in downtown Billings.

The Yellowstone Valley Farmers Market in Billings, Montana opened on July 16. President of the Yellowstone Valley Farmers Market board of directors, Shelli Gayvert of Garden Avenue Greenhouse, explained that local produce within a 250-mile radius can be represented at the Farmers Market when it is in season locally. Gayvert used the term “on” to describe when a fruit or vegetable is available. If the produce is not “on” here then product can come from further away such as Oregon or Washington. Gayvert pointed out, “Peaches and cherries are non-local” because the production is not large enough for market here.

Gayvert began coming to the market years ago after her business started growing corn.

“My kids at ages 4 and 6 at the time learned to count change, sell produce, and talk to people,” she said. The situation also taught them about learning how to cook the items they were selling.  She mentioned that many families included their children in working the market, but many have grown up and moved on.   

Mark Prewett of Prewett Farms shared, “We started Prewett Farms because we wanted our kids to learn about food.” The Prewetts have two acres in Park City, Montana where they grow zucchini, corn, beets, pumpkins, squash and much more.

Twelve-year-old Phillip served as an enthusiastic ambassador for fresh food. Aside from helping with the farming along with his two younger sisters and mother, he came weekly to the Yellowstone Valley Farmers Market with his father, mother and two younger sisters. He said of the market, “It’s a good experience with talking to people, learning about if they haven’t dealt with fresh food or whether they need help on how to cook fresh vegetables.”

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Credit Cierra Coppock
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Shelli and Dan Gayvert of Garden Ave Greenhouse talk to customers.

Phillip offered his recipe for cooking beets by boiling them with the stems cut off and skin on. After boiling the skins slip right off and then he tossed them with vinegar and butter. For zucchini, he cooked bacon, saving the grease to cook his zucchini. 

On most summer days, Phillip rose at 4:30 a.m. to begin his work on the farm. He admitted about farming, “It gives us a chance to calm down.” He does not like big cities with all the noise and activity. The coolness of the early makes for easier work. 

Food columnist Bernie Mason believed that children should learn about food when they are young. The secret according to Mason was, “starting them early is when you teach kids, from an early age, when they can walk.” Mason shared of her two-year-old grandson picking parsley from her garden. At the time, age 9, her grandson still looked forward to planting and harvesting bounty from her garden. “If they plant the seed and see how they grow, they become very excited,” Mason emphasized. 

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Credit Cierra Coppock
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The Prewett family sell produce grown from the Prewett Farms.

Some suggestions on how to get children to eat fresh fruits and vegetables included cutting squash such as zucchini and crookneck squash into dollars and then sandwich cheese in the middle, making small sandwiches. Other fillers included hummus and peanut butter. Mason believed that most children like eating vegetables raw. Broccoli trees and cherry tomatoes are fun options. Mason kept a container of garnish cutter that she uses to entice her grandchildren to devour vegetables. She said, “Doing creative things makes them more involved in their eating.” The shapes can be included in a salad. Mason continued by expressing how she is “amazed at how many kids are watching the cooking show.” 

Executive Chef Mike Callaghan, CEO of Callaghan Enterprises, a consulting company that specializes in provided tools for restaurants to run productively and successfully. As the Executive Chef who helped open Walkers Grill in 1993, Callaghan’s experience had helped introduce high school kids into the culinary world. For years he was a mentor and instructor for the ProStart Culinary program, a two-year program that teaches teenagers the culinary and business side of restaurants. Callaghan also believed that the palate for fresh fruits and vegetables is developed at a young age. The key was exposure and education. 

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Credit Cierra Coppock
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A variety of garlic for sale from Garlic Montana.

Shelli Gayvert said, “The Farmers Market is a great way to keep the community alive. It is positive for the community, important to support local businesses.” But even more, Farmers Market provided a great starting ground for teaching our children about good fresh food, how to eat them, and then how to cook them.

Stella Fong shares her personal love of food and wine through her cooking classes and wine seminars as well as through her contributions to Yellowstone Valley Woman, and Last Best News and The Last Best Plates blogs. Her first book, Historic Restaurants of Billings hit the shelves in November of 2015 with Billings Food available in the summer of 2016. After receiving her Certified Wine Professional certification from the Culinary Institute of America with the assistance of a Robert Parker Scholarship for continuing studies, she has taught the Wine Studies programs for Montana State University Billings Wine and Food Festival since 2008. She has instructed on the West Coast for cooking schools such as Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma, Macy’s Cellars, and Gelsons, and in Billings, at the Billings Depot, Copper Colander, Wellness Center, the YMCA and the YWCA. Locally she has collaborated with Raghavan Iyer and Christy Rost in teaching classes.