DSCN1851By Tina Dirmann

BCBSLA Foundation Staff Writer

Leave it to the smart folks at Best Life Iberia to lure kids into buying fruits and vegetables for themselves and their families. How? Through a kids only farmers market, tempting the typically anti-greens-age-set to go on a veritable veggie shopping spree! Armed with $10 in Best Life Bucks to spend, some 70 kids were invited to buy, buy, buy at this very special market, staged at the Iberia Parish Library (part of the library’s summer workshop program).

Vendors at the market included many of the DSCN1847same famers and gardeners who sell their wares at the regular-adult-type farmers market — Sugar City Growers Co-op, P&B Produce, Miss Jane’s Jams, Jellies and Goodies, The Garden Shed, 4-H members, the LSU AgCenter, Landry Farms. The Acadiana Growers Alliance was also there and even co-sponsored of the market.

“These are your farmers,” Marti Harrell, Best Life Iberia programDSCN1830
manager told a group of fourth grade shoppers. “These are the people who grow your food! Now go spend all your money!”

With that, she waved the kiddos toward the various tables laden with peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, fresh jams and jellies, pickles — even a honey tasting station.

But for Jason, 8, he only had one purchase in mind, lifting up a bag packed with fresh okra,

“What are you going to do with all that okra,” we asked him.

“My mom is going to pickle it for me,” he said proudly.

Excellent plan, we told him.

Kristen, 7, loaded up on cucumbers.

“I eat them in my salad,” she said.

Jonah was all about the honey tasting.

“This is my first stop,” he said, dipping a tasting stick into a small sample of oowey-gooey golden goodness (resting next to a couple of Landry Farms‘ beekeeper hats — proof positive that this isn’t the store bought stuff).

“Mmmmm,” was all he said before scooping up a bottle to buy.

“I want to try the new french fries,” said another young shopper, making his way to a counter filled with zucchini chips, battered and baked to a crisp. “I heard they are really good!”

“Oh yes,” answered Mandy Armentor, an LSU AgCenter  nutritionist and mother of a picky 7-year-old. This was her own trick for getting her kiddo to eat the green veggie. “These are the new french fries — the good for you french fries!”

At last check, she was struggling to keep up with demand, as the kids snatched them up just as each batch came out of the oven. Many were repeat customers, we noticed.

DSCN1880The kids also crowded a fruit kabob making station.

Inside the library, volunteers offered a little nutrition education. And outside, coaches from NIRD (New Iberia Recreation Department) led a dance off that got a little DSCN1929heated when one junior red headed participant easily out danced her adult instructor. Honestly, that little girl could get down!

As an aside, we were told another 165 kids wanted to enroll in the market workshop. Alas, the library couldn’t accommodate everyone. Sounds like a encore Kids Farmers Market is a must.

“This is just so great,” said Mom Rasheka Ducro, who got both of her boys (Chad, 12, and Chance, 10) into the program. Even her 2-year-old daughter embraced the moment, standing guard by her brothers’ shopping bags before being rewarded with her own fruit kabob. “Their grandparents have a garden and my son Chance loves to garden with them. So he’s the one who really wanted to do this.”

The day’s event even prompted a nice little mention of our DSCN1825Challenge Grant program in The Daily Iberian Newspaper, which read, in part:

“The program fits hand in glove with the Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana Grant,” said Harrell, Best Life Iberia program manager.

Best Life Iberia recently received a grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana to promote healthy living. With this grant, Best Life was able to sponsor the workshop to teach children about different fruits, vegetables and ways to stay active.

DSCN1857“It gets kids closer to their food,” Harrell said.

The $1 million Challenge Grant, spread over a three year period, was awarded to the West End Health and Wellness Project (a wellness initiative helmed by Best Life Iberia) in 2012.

 And now, a few end of day stats. Distributed:  39 pounds of fresh vegetables, 32 baked goods33 jams, jellies, salsas18 jars of local honey, 18 cups of herbal tea, 10 packs of seeds and vegetable/herb plants.



Pickles, zuchinis and coconut pies!