Lindsay Metcalf's father had no idea of the seed he was sowing when he texted his daughter a photo of a vintage tractor bearing the sign: "Washington, D.C. or BUSTed."
"I grew up on a Kansas wheat, corn and soybean farm during the 1980's farm crisis but somehow had never heard the story about the thousands of farmers who drove their tractors to Washington in 1979," Metcalf says.
Fascinated, Metcalf jumped down the rabbit hole of research and discovered a tale of agricultural history she felt the world and, more specifically, children should know. Her picture book for middle-grade students called "Farmers Unite! Planting A Protest For Fair Prices" debuted in November.
Featured in this article is a sampling of books with agricultural themes written by authors who have close ties to the farm. Books are available for order through local bookstores or Amazon, unless otherwise indicated.
It will be hard to keep the buttery fingerprints off these pages. Wisconsin farmer Cris Peterson, author of many farm-related children's books, takes the reader on a journey from planting, growing and harvesting America's favorite snack food.
David R. Lundquist's photos go to the Corn Belt to explain the differences between various types of corn and what gives popcorn its "pop." Planters and combines lumber over the land, and readers see the many steps it takes to produce, bag and transport this treat around the world. Back matter (interesting details at the back of the book) gives a history of popcorn and more resources.
Emi Lou, a real-life Indiana farm girl, falls in love with a physically challenged newborn calf the minute she sees him.
As Emi Lou cares for Pete, and he grows stronger under her touch, young readers come to see how farmers care deeply about their livestock, land and surroundings.
Author Jennifer Campbell, who contributes to Progressive Farmer's "Our Rural Roots" column, has created a modern and factual look at the bond between child and animal. No stranger to agriculture, illustrator Victoria Gibson's watercolors touch the book with a tenderness that will have readers cheering for Pete and wanting to visit him again and again.
This nonfiction account of the beginnings of the American Agriculture Movement (AAM) may have taken place more than 40 years ago, but Lindsay Metcalf brings a fresh new look to the story of thousands of farmers upset enough over low prices to drive across the country to protest.
Metcalf tracked down archival photographs to illustrate this longer picture book for a middle-grade audience. She found and interviewed farmers who camped on the National Mall, and mined their scrapbooks for information. As protesters turn the nation's capital into a snarling traffic mess, those who might have once been sympathetic to the farmer's plight start to sour. But, in a surprising twist, the farmers and their tractors come to the rescue during a snowstorm and make amends for some of the destruction they caused in anger.
Children might be surprised to see police and riot gear unleashed upon farmers. Adults who remember calls for price parity may have different takes on the history, but this is a well-researched book that plants the seed for many discussions on activism.
IF A FARMER GETS A PICKUP
If a farmer gets a pickup, he's going to want a trailer and then, he's going to want some cows ... South Dakota farmer Lee J. Friesen sends readers on a circular tale that pokes at the funny bone of how one darn thing leads to another on most farms.
While Friesen wrote and self-published the book for children, he says adults see the humor all too well. Machinery-minded readers will delight as the tale escalates, and the farmer keeps adding more tools of the trade, which eventually rolls into the need for a bigger, shinier and newer pickup. Younger children enjoy the hunt for the hidden chicken on each page.
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