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‘The children love the snails and worms’ | Community Profile

Islander Judy Witmer, center, with sisters Zoë Ellwood, 7, left, and Tatum Ellwood, 5, dig into colorful fruits and vegetables at a recent Farmers Market at Mercerdale Park.  - Contributed Photo
Islander Judy Witmer, center, with sisters Zoë Ellwood, 7, left, and Tatum Ellwood, 5, dig into colorful fruits and vegetables at a recent Farmers Market at Mercerdale Park.
— image credit: Contributed Photo

WHO SHE IS: Judy Witmer

WHAT SHE DOES: Farmers Market kids program volunteer.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING AT THE MARKET: This is the second year we’ve been doing this.

WHAT DO YOU DO FOR WORK: I’m a teacher at the Mercer Island Learning Lab, a preschool sponsored by Bellevue College, and I do parent education for the college.

HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN THE FARMERS MARKET: I’ve always been interested in good food and farmers markets, and I went three years ago when they started on Mercer Island. They had just put some crayons on the table and called it “kids’ activities,” and I thought we could do more.

WHAT KINDS OF ACTIVITIES DO YOU ORGANIZE: We plant seeds, we explore worms and snails — anything that has to do with being outside in a garden. The children love the snails and worms. They love painting, and we do berry prints when the berries are ripe.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE YOU TO PREPARE, AND WHAT KINDS OF THINGS DO YOU HAVE TO KEEP IN MIND: I’d say a couple of hours a week. I’ve done a lot of work as a teacher, so I have a lot of information at my fingertips, and I just kind of have to gather that together. Then we have teenagers who help out, so I have to make sure that projects will be easy for them to help with, and I have to keep the parents in mind because sometimes they don’t like their kids to get dirty.

WHAT’S THE FIRST THING YOU DO WHEN YOU GET TO THE MARKET IN THE MORNING: I find my table and set it up. It takes us about half an hour.

WHAT’S THE FUNNIEST THING THAT HAPPENED TO YOU VOLUNTEERING IN THE MORNING: We have these projects we’re trying to use to make the kids wonder and imagine and make connections, and oftentimes I find there’s this whole generation that hasn’t made connections, and that’s the parents. Parents are amazed that sunflowers come from sunflower seeds because they’ve just seen them in packets in the store. I have to chuckle at that.

IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WISH PARENTS/MARKETGOERS WOULD KEEP IN MIND: They have to let their children explore and be outside and plant seeds and dig in the ground and play with worms because sometimes I think we’re lacking that in our culture. Sometimes you have to get down and dirty.

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