Tag Archives: International Year of Family Farming

Read These and Reap!

Because our images of the family farm tend to be stereotyped, out of date, shaped by the media or otherwise skewed, one special way to celebrate 2014 – International Year of Family Farming – is to focus on the very young, those urban tabulae rasae whose  perceptions of the family farm are not yet formed.

With a child, even a very young child, stories can start the discussion that will shape their mental images. Reading to and with an impressionable child will have a powerful influence on that child’s understanding and appreciation of the heritage that we Minnesotans share a responsibility to preserve.

This list is random, subjective, intended to get a family member, friend or caregiver to think about reading to and with young readers about family farming as a time-honored profession. Celebrate the International Year of Family Farming by sharing a good read, maybe your own experience, with a youngster who’s poised to learn the facts, the stories and importance of the nation’s family farms.

Some possibilities to prime the pump —

Weidt, Maryann, Daddy played music for the cows.  Memories of a young girl growing up on a family farm reflected in the songs her father played for the cows.  A delightful read by a Minnesota writer.

Miller, Jane.  Farm Alphabet – for babies and older children – uses photos to introduce the basics of things found on farms

Wolfman, Judy.  Life on a Cattle Farm.  Also  Life on a Pig Farm, Life on a Goat Farm, and others by the same author.

Lobel, Anita.  Hello, Day!  Farm animals and the noises they make.

Murphy, Andy.   Out and About at the Dairy Farm.

Flemming, Denise.  Barnyard Banter.  Lovely illustrations – watch for the wily goose.

Brown, Margaret Wise.  Big Red Barn.  How the animals spend their day.

Wellington, Monica.  Apple Farmer Annie.  Especially good for harvest time.

Dorros, Arthur.  Radio Man/Don Radio.  Bilingual story about a boy and his migrant family.

DeAngelis, Therese.   The Ojibway: Wild Rice Gatherers.   The story of American Indians’ discovery of wild rice, the “food that grows on the water.”

Smith, Joseph A.  Mowing – a little girl helping her grandparents on the farm.

Purmell, Ann.  Maple Syrup Season.  The basics of collecting and boiling the sap, the making maple syrup.

Brown, Craig McFarland, Tractor.   Some of the basics of how a small farmer plans, harvests and sells the fruits of his labor.

Wilder, Laura Ingalls, Jody Wheeler and Renee Graef.    Winter on the Farm.  Paging through brings back memories, not of the farm but of reading the book with the family.

Lewis, Kim.  Little Puppy.  One in a series of family farm books by Kim Lewis.

Root, Phyllis, Kiss the Cow.  When the consequence of not doing so means no milk…

Runcie, Jill.  Cock-a-doodle-doo.   A delightful spin on an old story about depending on a rooster to sound the morning call.

Wolff, Ferida.  It is the wind.  Rhyming text that describes the thoughts of an African American boy awakened in the night by the sounds of the farm animals.

Philips, Mildred. And the cow said Moo!  The bossy young cow tries to teach the other animals his language.

Most, Bernard.  The cow that went oink.   More about farm animal language differences.

Cleary, Beverley.  The Hullabaloo ABC.  Fun-loving kids enjoying a day on the farm.

Bradby, Marie.  Once Upon a Farm.   Every day work and life on the family farm.

Williams, Sue .  I Went Walking.  A young boy encounters all sorts of animals on his walk – what/who will come next?

Fredrickson, Gordon W.  Fredrickson, who taught for many years in Minnesota schools, has published a series of farm stories that tell of his first-hand experience growing up on a family farm. One of Fredrickson’s books, What I Saw on the Farm, is illustrated by Bradley Simon, a New Prague teenager.

Last but definitely not least   — Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type.  Written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy Lewin. This recent (for me) discovery explains so much – any kid or adult who ever engaged in labor negotiations will get it!


International Year of Family Farming – What it’s about, Why it matters

For Minnesotans the true Rite of Spring is planting season – even if the experience is remembered or vicarious.  Planting season with real farmers on real tractors with genetically un-modified seeds, rotated crops and other practices that promote sustainable agricultural systems.  Happily, nostalgia is giving way to reality as urban farming, farm to home, and farmers market programs and locavore cuisine raise the profile of family farming and the role that family farmers play in growing nutritious food to feed a hungry world — while protecting the environment and preserving the land.

Still, conspicuously absent from the mainstream headlines is the news that 2014 is International Year of Family Farming!   This global effort aims to reposition family farming at the center of agricultural, environmental and social politics “by identifying gaps and opportunities to promote a shift towards a more equal and balanced development.”

IYFF offers the chance for a global conversation among family farmers and, even more, among those working outside the agriculture sector, to creatively re-think the central role, strength, and challenges to the family farm.  Planners encourage policy makers to think systemically – to connect the dots that link family farming with the organic whole in which family farming is an essential player – the environment, economic development, sociological, cultural and community ties.

Who should celebrate the International Year of Family Farming?  This is, after all, an international initiative, promoted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in particular.  At the global level, attention is understandably on the mega-issues – addressing world hunger, building strong economies in third world countries, promoting sustainable agriculture.  The UN website describes an ambitious vision and sets the context.


Still, for Minnesotans, family farming is a local issue that invites individual and organizational attention.  Close to home, who has a stake in the celebration of the IYFF?   Everyone, of course…..

  • Anyone or any organization that cares even peripherally about safe food or the environment
  • Educators and educational institutions that shape both the opportunities and the attitudes of youth
  • Local newspapers and the advertisers that support their role as the connectors of the community
  • Urban oriented media that need to go on the road not just for features and oddities (fun as they are) but for hard news and news analysis.
  • Government agencies that gather and manage data – if it’s not counted, it doesn’t count when resources are allocated or services delivered.
  • The faith community whose rural presence is precarious at best.
  • Proponents of broadband — though there’s been a lot of talk and action, there’s not been a so much talk about or engagement of small and family farmers
  • Obviously, family farming matters to each of us because we all care about  land preservation, clean water and air, safe food, the state economy,  the welfare of all Minnesotans…..

Bottom line – focus on family farming deserves to be moved to the front burner.  The voices of family farmers must be heard in every discussion.  The data needed to reflect the reality.  The environment, the economy, the story of Minnesota’s heritage depend on our collective awareness and understanding of family farming as a core value.

The International Year of Family Farming offers Minnesotans a push to get up and do what needs to be done to understand and preserve our proud heritage.