Introducing 'Can-Do Cowkids' for young readers
I'm a ranch mom to three beautiful, rambunctious cowkids — Scarlett, Thorne and Croix. When I became a mom, I realized there were very few agriculturally-accurate children's books available. More often than not, the cow was the main character and not the rancher. Even worse, the rancher, in so many books and Disney movies, was portrayed as evil, sinister and lacking in care for his livestock.
I wanted to change that, so in 2011, I wrote a children's book titled, "Levi's Lost Calf." The book focused on a young rancher who was committed to taking care of his land and his animals. Since the book's release, I have had the great honor of presenting this story to elementary schools across the country. Giving kids an introduction to ranch life and making them fall in love with agriculture is a passion of mine. Promoting agricultural literacy is so important, if we are to have educated and empowered consumers at the grocery store, and it starts with kids.
Last week, my second children's book, "Can-Do Cowkids" officially launched, and once again, I had the privilege of working with talented western artist Michelle Weber on the project. New this time around — the book was sponsored and published by the Georgia Beef Board, with cooperation from the Georgia Agriculture Commodity Commission for Beef, Beef Checkoff, Georgia Farm Bureau and Georgia Department of Agriculture.
With full industry support, this book focuses on agricultural careers and inspires young "can-do cowkids" to work hard, dream big and never give up, no matter what! Readers are introduced to exciting beef industry careers including veterinarians, auctioneers, agronomists, nutritionists, conservationists and so much more.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, between 2015 and 2020, there will be an average of 57,900 annual openings for college graduates with expertise in food, agriculture, renewable natural resources and the environment. Of those jobs, 27 percent will be in science, technology, engineering and mathematics; 15 percent of jobs will be related to sustainable food and biomaterials production; and 12 percent of the openings will focus on education, communication and governmental services.
Yet, despite these 57,900 available career opportunities in agriculture, there are only 35,400 new U.S. graduates with expertise in these fields of study. The USDA says young people are, "essential to our ability to address the U.S. priorities of food security, sustainable energy, and environmental quality in the years to come."
Not only do I want young readers to have fun reading "Can-Do Cowkids," but I also want them to know that any kid — whether they grew up on a farm or not — can pursue these exciting and rewarding opportunities in agriculture. With so many job openings available, the sky is really the limit in food production; it's just a matter of finding the right fit for a kid's special talents and applying it to a career where we are nourishing people with food, fiber and energy.
This spring, I will once again travel the country reading this story to elementary kids. It is a great privilege and an honor for educators to entrust me with their students for an hour or two, and it's my goal that when I leave, they feel more confident about their food and where it comes from. More importantly, I hope they believe that one day, they too, could be part of our nation's food system.
With Ag Literacy Day on March 21, it is my hope that more educators will choose agriculturally-accurate children's books to read in their classrooms. I hope parents will do the same when they choose the bedtime stories they read to their kids at night.
To learn more about my book, my classroom visits or my keynote speaking, please check out my new website www.amandaradke.com. Thanks for your support and happy reading!