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Wanted: Ag-accurate children’s books

Since having my sons I’ve taken more notice of kids’ books about farming. I’ve realized how challenging it is to find a book that is accurate about agriculture. 

The books often follow the same formula for what a farm looks like – a red barn, one cow, pig, sheep, and chicken, and a farmer wearing overalls. I’ve seen some illustrations showing hay stored in a silo, which is really designed for storing animal feed made from fermented forage such as grass or corn. I’ve seen drawings showing crops being harvested on the farm when in reality those crops wouldn’t be growing at the same time. 

I didn’t realize how effective these books were on shaping kids’ thoughts on agriculture until my own sons told me we didn’t live on a farm because we don’t have livestock. That conversation opened my eyes to how important selecting agriculturally accurate books is and how hard that is. 

One source for finding accurate books about agriculture is the Farm Bureau Foundation for Ag. Their database includes nearly 500 books for any age from toddler to adult. Every year the foundation names a “Book of the Year”. This year’s book is Full of Beans, Henry Ford Grows a Car

Our county Farm Bureau Women’s Committee buys one book of the year for each of our elementary school libraries. Hopefully the school librarians are using these in one of their educational programs with students. 

I’ve also found several books written by farmers. Who better to write an agriculturally accurate book than the people who are actually making their living from the land? Agriculture is so broad and varied – no two farms are the same, something that is often absent on most children’s books. Farmers sharing the story of their own farms helps highlight how diverse our industry truly is and sends the message that we aren’t all Old McDonald’s Farm. There isn’t anything wrong with his farm, it just shouldn’ be the only representation of a farm our kids see. 

Some childrens books written by people in the agriculture industry you can find on our shelf include:

  • Coolbean the Soybean written by agronomist Shawn Conley tells the story of Coolbean as he grows up. The book includes information on all the uses of soybeans, including crayons, which started some great conversations with my oldest son since he loves to draw.
  • Right This Very Minute written by Wisconsin cranberry farmer Lisl Detlefson was named American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture’s Book of the Year in 2019. My boys love this one – we’ve read it so often my 4-year old can recite it from memory. 
  • The Chaney Twins Series written by Nebraska twins and edited by their mom, shares their story about growing up on a farm. There are even lesson plans for each book, making this a great resource for teachers, too.
  • Goodbye Corn by Tasha Rogel-Diel tells the story of corn from planting to harvest, which is something my boys can relate to since we grow the crop here. Since the author is from Illinois, it was interesting to talk about how we grow corn differently in North Carolina.
  • Farm Nursery Songs by Jessica Peters includes songs written to the tunes of nursery rhymes, but these songs are about farming. I bought this when I found out I was expecting our third child and have sung these to him many nights at bedtime.

What children’s books written by farmers would you add to this list?

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