How many kids today, if asked where their food came from, would say, “the grocery store”? As our culture moves away from family farms, it becomes more and more important for us to teach our children about how vegetables grow and how animals are raised so that they can make good choices for their own health and the health of the planet. Of course, such efforts can backfire, as when an elementary class a few years ago televised their school garden. When they pulled up a ripe carrot, the children exclaimed, “Ew! It came out of the dirt!” and the entire class swore off vegetables for life.
The Farm That Feeds Us shows “a year in the life of an organic farm,” with large, busy pages filled with the various activities that happen on different kinds of farms. Castaldo begins by explaining that there are arable (crop) farms, dairy farms, poultry and sheep farms, orchards, and others, and defines what “organic” means. She then launches into spring, showing the equipment needed to prepare and plant fields, always a big hit with little ones. Throughout the year, different aspects of farming are given a more detailed treatment on double-page spreads with illustrator Ginnie Hsu’s colorful paintings: orchards and beekeeping, the farmer’s market, breadmaking, dairy herds, sheep shearing, pest control, pollination, county fairs, cool weather crops, and putting the farm to bed for the winter.
Throughout this friendly volume, Castaldo helps children to see the connection between farms and the broader population, such as marketing to restaurants and supermarkets, making it clear that farming is not a hobby, but an occupation. Whereas most children’s books would say “sheep have wool,” this title shows many different breeds of sheep and why they are valued. It also mentions breeds that are endangered and does not shy away from saying when animals are used for meat. There are similar layouts with varieties of pigs, corn, and apples. Conservation and making good choices are stressed throughout.
Cozy interior scenes show the family making pies or bread, and there is a simple bread recipe for children to try. The author ends with notes on supporting local growers and how to eat healthy foods, as well as a glossary of agricultural terms. Your kids will come away knowing that farming is hard work all year long, but that it is also deeply satisfying and important.
Recommended for urban, suburban, and rural five- to ten-year-olds.
Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and may not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.