Empowering The Next Generation of Consumers One Story At A Time
It’s hard to believe how fast August has flown by. Kids are headed back to school. Summer activities are winding down. State fair season is upon us. And the fall harvest is just around the corner.
As we near the arrival of Autumn, I can’t help but reflect on my busy summer of traveling. This past month, I completed a speaking tour that took me from the coastline of Mississippi, to the magnificent Mountains in Montana. I traveled to the desert in New Mexico, and deep into the heart of Missouri for the iconic state fair.
And on every stop along the way, I left a stack of children’s books with the folks I met. As many of you know, I started writing books in 2011, when I became frustrated about the lack of agriculturally-accurate farm and ranch stories available for kids. The movie, “Barn Yard,” further pressed me to take action, and I decided if I didn’t like entertainment options for kids, well, then I would make my own.
I’m very blessed to work alongside an incredible artist, mom, cattle rancher, Michelle Weber, who equally shares this passion and purpose, and together, we have seven titles, with an eighth on the way this Christmas.
I’ve read these books from New York City to Los Angeles and everywhere in between, and it’s always so rewarding to meet and connect with kids and show them who we are in the agricultural community.
During my stop at the Missouri State Fair this summer, I had the chance to work with the Missouri Cattlewomen and the Missouri State Fair Foundation. With a focus of educating youth about agriculture, the Foundation hosted the “Read to Win” challenge, where kids could earn tickets to the fair and a coloring book for reading books related to farming and ranching.
Children could select from featured books, including my own, to learn more about agriculture, and I’m pleased to report that more than 250 children participated reading a whopping 3,000 books!
Book titles included, “The Perfect Barn,” “The Winter Cowboy,” “The Calf On My Farm,” “The Fabulous, Fantastic Field Trip to the Dairy Farm,” “Growing Vegetable Soup,” “Baby’s First Book of Cows & Colors,” “Rowdy’s Big Day,” and so many more. Visit the Missouri State Fair Foundation’s website at www.mostatefairfoundation.net for the complete list of stories.
To celebrate the “Read to Win” program, the Cattlewomen and the Foundation hosted an event, where members prepared beef recipes and cooking demonstrations in a building at the fair, and then the featured artists took turns displaying their books and visiting with families.
The smell of sizzling beef and the sounds of laughing children were hard to beat, and it was such a fun experience to be a part of it.
Then, to top it all off, backpacks were filled with books and donated to Missouri’s CASA volunteers (Court Appointed Special Advocates), who work with foster youth in the state. These organizations generously gifted books to these vulnerable kids, and I am quite certain these children will enjoy the stories that will soon be delivered to them!
As I’ve returned home from this trip, I’m still on cloud nine from the experience and the opportunity to get to work with so many amazing people who are as passionate about promoting agricultural literacy as I am. I know there are so many misconceptions about agriculture that exist today, but having the chance to meet so many of these authors who are writing books about farming and ranching, I truly feel we have made great strides in this effort.
If you’re looking for ways to get involved in the mission of promoting agricultural education in the classroom, consider volunteering to read a story in a classroom or donate some books to a local library.
We can correct the course and work to ensure that our next generation of consumers are empowered, educated, engaged, and excited about food and agriculture, and we can achieve that one story at a time.