Getting kids to eat their vegetables- a formidable challenge for most parents despite clever and determined efforts to make vegetables appear enticing and even unrecognizable at the dinner table. But teaching kids to love their veggies doesn’t necessarily start at the table but from the ground up- with tiny seeds in the earth. Their impressive growth into little sprouts and then into ripe, colorful vegetables might just be something your child will want to bite into. But if you don’t have a backyard garden to teach a little veggie appreciation, don’t worry. Just visit a kid-friendly u-pick farm or public vegetable garden near you where little ones can see vegetables growing and even pick their own to take home. Kids who harvest their own food will have pride (and a bit more confidence) in eating it too. Here are our choices for vegetable farms and garden tours in and around the Seattle area perfect for your tykes:

Oxbow Farm
Visit Oxbow Farm, a 25-acre organic farm and CSA near Carnation, WA, that offers educational farm fun for children. Open on Saturdays and Sundays, July 16th through October, the farm welcomes self-guided tours. Stop by the farmstand for picnic goodies; hang out on the playground; and explore the Oxbow trails. In addition, Oxbow offers a Beet Generation Farm Tour at 11:00 am and 1:00 pm for just $5 per child. Learn more about Oxbow and Oxbow’s “Wild Sprouts” farm & forest adventure camp (appropriate for kids ages 7 to 9) at www.oxbow.org.

Red Rooster Route
For some u-pick veggie fun, take the kids to the family-friendly farms on the Red Rooster Route near Arlington, WA. Be sure to stop at Garden Treasures Nusery & Organic Farm where over 100 varieties of organic crops are open for u-pick March through December. Check out the greenhouses where you can also pick heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, and winter mix greens. Not far away is Fosters Produce & Corn Maze, famous for its delicious u-pick sweet corn. You can also pick green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash beets, and more, and be sure to let the kids check out the farm animal barn and find their way through the hay maze.

Pickering Barn
Once the center of Issaquah’s largest dairy farm, the beautifully restored Pickering Barn now stands next to one of Seattle Tilth’s community learning gardens demonstrating organic food growing techniques. Located on the west side of the barn, the garden is open to self-guided tours where you can take the kids to check out what vegetables are growing (though no picking allowed!). Issaquah’s Farmer’s Market is also located at Pickering Barn and open Saturdays from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm. Buy farm-fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables and chat with on-site master gardener’s for advice on how to get your own vegetable garden growing. More info at http://seattletilth.org/about/issaquahgardenprogram.

Seattle Tilth Learning Gardens
Want to visit vegetable gardens a little closer to home? Seattle Tilth, a non-profit educational gardening organization, welcomes families to take self-guided tours of any of its local learning gardens (though harvesting vegetables is only permitted through its educational programs). Visit the Children’s Garden, once an abandoned swimming pool basin, behind the Good Shepherd Center in the Wallingford neighborhood, which welcomes 5,000+ visitors every year. Don’t miss the Harvest Celebration, the first of which takes place on Saturday, September 24 from 10:00 am to noon.

Bradner Gardens Park also features a Seattle Tilth demonstration garden, a children’s A to Z garden (look for the baby scarecrow!), a community P-Patch garden, and a nearby play area, a great place for the kids to burn off a little extra energy.

Seattle Tilth’s newest learning garden, the Rainer Beach Learning Garden, is located in the Rainier Beach neighborhood of south Seattle behind the Rainier Beach Community Center and the South Shore School. Harvest Celebration takes place on Friday, October 14 from 4:00 to 5:30 pm.

Seattle Tilth also offers wonderful children’s garden camps for great hands-on vegetable gardening experience. More info here.

After a vegetable garden visit or two, your child might just be the first at your dinner table to ask for seconds on the greens. Who knew vegetables could be so fun, interesting, and delicious?

—Erin Sirianni