It’s that time of year when little ones have been hitting the petting zoos, picking apples and selecting the perfect pumpkins, but are parents really helping their children to connect the dots between farmers and the fun they’re having at their local farms and orchards?
Unfortunately, I unsuccessfully attempted to do just that for Zoe and Jada this summer. We had the privilege of visiting a dairy farm on the campus of University of Illinois, Urbana- Champaign. I prepped the girls for our trip by stating that we were going to see the cows that give us milk, and they echoed the news with simultaneous “MOOOs”! It was going to be a great visit, right…wrong!
We pulled up to the school’s dairy farm and as I unloaded the girls onto the gravel walkway they acknowledged that their glittery shoes were now smeared with mud. This visit was nothing like the manicured paths that we’d frequented at our local Zoo. We proceeded to the barn and the girls grew even more apprehensive. Why wasn’t the barn red? And where was the crowing rooster to complete the scene? It became clear to them that this wasn’t Old MacDonald’s Farm, this was a real working farm with very large animals.
We slowly navigated our way through the barn and passed the milk cooler just as it was revving up! Zoe leaped 10 feet and Jada wrapped her arms around my neck…twice! What were these sounds on the farm? Why was there such large machinery? Why were the cows so BIG?
The girls weren’t even considering a move closer to the cow that we were granted permission to milk, instead they kept a distance of 10 feet away. Little Miss Jada continued to back away only to find herself lined up perfectly beneath the rear of a cow that was lifting its tail to relieve itself.
She was whisked away not a moment to soon.
We left the farm shortly thereafter and the girls were promptly asleep. Apparently our farm excursion was a little too adventurous for my tots, but here’s how I would have prepared them differently. Before our next farm visit, I plan to read the girls books like “The Milk Makers” by Gail Gibbons so that the girls will have a realistic interpretation of what to expect on today’s farm. Also the book “From Cow to Carton” by Aliki has received rave reviews as a resource for teaching little ones about dairy farms.
As adults, sometimes its easy to assume that our kids “get it,” when really they’re just along for the fun. But when they don’t know what to expect, a fun adventure can turn into a really scary one. And while it’s tempting to read some of the more cartoon-like books with smiling cows hand delivering cups of milk, it’s more effective to provide realistic views of the world around us.
I do plan on taking the girls for another farm tour, but next time they’re getting the real picture!
If you’re looking for some additional farm friendly approved books, here’s a great list provided by the awesome folks at the Illinois Farm Bureau:
- “Oh Say Can You Seed?” by Bonnie Worth–this is a Cat in the Hat Learning Library Book–it is a great picture of what goes on as a seed germinates and becomes a plant!! Perfect for all ages!
- Awesome Agriculture for Kids Series by Susan Anderson and JoAnne Buggey—“A to Z” books on corn, pigs, soybeans and beef cattle for K-2 readers, as well as “The Story of Agriculture” books on the same topics for grades 3-5.
- “The Beef Princess of Practical County” by Michelle Houts–strong female youth main character deeply involved in agriculture. (grades 4-5)
- “Little Joe” by Sandra Neil Wallace–another look at raising an animal for the show ring and sale. (grades 3-5)
- “The Heart of a Shepherd” by Rosanne Perry–excellent book, that is perfect for upper elementary readers to adults.
- “Who Grew My Soup” by Tom Darbyshire— young Phin Quinn demands to know ‘WHO GREW MY SOUP?” and he gets to meet the farmers who do!
- “How Did That Get In My Lunchbox?” by Chris Butterworth–traces your lunch from the table to the farm.
- “The Scrambled States of America” by Laurie Heller–takes a look at each state, why they are so different, and also examines why it is good to be just plain old you!
- “Apples to Oregon” by Deborah Hopkinson–a historical fiction account of Henderson Luelling and his actual trip with his family from Iowa to Oregon on the Oregon Trail. Told in a way, you won’t forget!
- “The Tree Farmer” by Chuck Leavell–Rock and Roller by night, tree farmer and author by day, Chuck Leavell (keyboardist for the Rolling Stones) writes about sustainable forests that he farms!
- “The Super Soybean” by Raymond Bial–an Illinois author, Ray uses photos he takes from throughout Illinois to bring difficult subjects to life. Check out any of his books including “A Handful of Dirt” and “Cornbelt Harvest,” too!
- Anything by author Cris Peterson. This farm wife was raised in Minnesota and moved to her current home on a dairy farm with her dairy farming husband in Wisconsin. Check out “Seed, Soil, Sun”, “Clarabelle” and “Amazing Grazing.”
- “The Hungry Planet” by Peter Menzel–takes a look at what a week’s worth of groceries around the world looks like. (Junior High to Adult)
- Any Gail Gibbons books—“The Milk Makers,” “The Pumpkin Book,” “Apples,” “Corn,” “From Seed to Plant,” and “The Vegetables We Eat.” (PreK-3)
What are some of your favorite farm books?
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