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Healthy Valley Families program supports wellness

Are your children eating their vegetables? Are they spending enough time doing outdoor physical activities?

If not, the Healthy Valley Families program is one resource for families seeking to create a healthier lifestyle. The program is designed to assist families wanting to increase their children’s interest in eating fresh vegetables while providing exercise and fun learning gardening and land stewardship on a farm in a beautiful St. Croix Valley natural area.

“All children are at risk if not eating their vegetables,” said Verna Kragnes, of Philadelphia Community Farm in rural Osceola where the Healthy Valley Families program is being hosted.

According to data gathered by the Center for Disease Control, four of the 10 top killers in the United States (heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and cancer) are largely prevented by healthy diets and lifestyles. However, getting kids to eat their vegetables is commonly reported as a difficult task.

Jessica Seinfeld, author of two books on cooking for kids says: “I’ve talked to thousands and thousands of parents, and most of them can’t get their kids to try them.”

This is a serious issue when the Center for Disease Control indicates that childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years.

The good news is that if kids just taste vegetables numerous times, eventually they will eat more of that vegetable. Research by psychologist Lucy Cooke at University College, London, shows that children who were simply exposed to tasting a vegetable they didn’t particularly like for 12 days ate significantly more of those vegetables at one and three months after the initial exposure. Research also suggests children are more likely to try new vegetables if they have helped to grow or prepare them.

“That’s where we come in,” says Dawn Spanton, educational coordinator at Philadelphia Community Farm. “We involve people in growing and preparing vegetables using organic and biodynamic methods. When children and families get exposed to great-tasting, nutritious food while having fun in our gardens and natural areas, it encourages a healthier lifestyle. People are more aware of health and wellness these days but don’t always have access to farms and gardens like they used to. We think of ourselves as being Grandma’s and Grandpa’s farm for those who don’t have one to go to.”

The Healthy Valley Families program begins with a farm tour and garden activities, including harvesting vegetables. A complimentary lunch featuring vegetables harvested from the gardens is provided (which family members help prepare).

The afternoon activities include a hike or play in the beautiful natural areas adjacent to Philadelphia Community Farm which is nestled in a valley near the St. Croix River. Visits to the farm animals, including Southdown sheep Millie and Rose, the donkey Burrito, and several heritage breeds of chickens, are also fun for the whole family.

The program ends with a concluding circle and the gift of a 1/3 bushel box of in-season vegetables for each family to take home, including recipe suggestions.

The wellness educational program and complimentary box of vegetables are offered free of charge, thanks to funding support from the St. Croix Valley Foundation, Hugh J. Andersen Foundation, Fred C. & Katherine B. Andersen Foundation, and individuals donors.

Interested families may contact Philadelphia Community Farm at 715-294-4048 to sign up for the Healthy Valley Families program. When calling, families will be asked to select a four-hour session (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) on any Tuesday or Thursday from June 11 to Aug. 29 (except for July 2 and 4). There will be a limit of 10-12 children per session, depending on the ages, so pre-registration is required, and families are encouraged to call early to ensure availability of a date that works well for them.

The ages of the children participating will also be requested when registering so developmentally appropriate activities for that day can be planned. These farm visits are most suited for ages 3-9, but family members of all ages are welcome. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Many communities in the St. Croix Valley are becoming increasingly proactive about encouraging a healthy lifestyle for all its citizens. The Healthy Valley Families program is a way for families to join the movement toward greater wellness and to discover how fun it can be.

Philadelphia Community Farm is a non-profit education and conservation organization located on the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway near Osceola, Wisconsin.