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Arts & Culture

Children's Book, 'Our Family Farm,' Sells Thousands Of Copies

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Slurp, bark, chugga-sputta-clunk (ph), swish - those are the sounds of a family farm, or at least the one in "Our Family Farm," a children's book that sold thousands of copies. It's part of an effort by the North Dakota Farmers Union to grow a new generation of farmers. And their president Mark Watne joins me now.

Hi, there.

MARK WATNE: Hi. How are you today?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm great. I hear it's pretty snowy over there.

WATNE: You know, we are - we're having a real early - too-early blizzard, and it's really a serious one.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So I want to talk about this book. The writing and the illustrations are by Dana Sullivan. What's the story?

WATNE: Well, the story talks about how everyone works on the family farm, and it kind of runs you through the - a part of a day, a little bit of a harvest, Grandma out in the garden gathering vegetables. And the combine actually breaks down. And they find a way to get that combine fixed with the help of Grandpa, who knows everything. And then it kind of shows how that grain gets to the market and gets to the world. So the family farm feeds the world.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Why did you think a children's book could help encourage farming?

WATNE: Well, we were kind of hoping that this book would meet the needs of a child starting to read. And then, of course, their parents would have to read to them as they learned. And anytime you can tell stories about something and get to a young generation and get their parents to participate, they get an awareness. And we're concerned that if we don't get this awareness, we're not going to have as many people as concerned about maintaining that family farm production system.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I don't have to tell you. This isn't an easy time to be a farmer for many reasons. And I have to say I noticed the book didn't have any cheery illustrations of trade wars, ethanol legislation, corn and soy prices. There's a lot going on in your world at the moment.

WATNE: There definitely is, and it kind of reinforces the need for the farm programs, the safety nets because we can't manage the weather. We can't always stay out of trade wars. We can't always get the demand from renewable fuels that we need. And we certainly wouldn't want to destroy, again, a very, very good system of food production simply because of outside factors that the farmer can't control. So that's part of the reason for this book. And many other things we do is to try to make sure the consumer understands the huge benefit they have of family farmers across the country.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And I understand this blizzard that you're dealing with right now has come at a particularly bad time for the crops.

WATNE: It really has. I don't know if we're - 50% of our crops are in in this state. Nearly all the corn and soybeans are out. There's wheat still out, canola. And I - sadly, we're going to lose some farmers. And we're not going to maintain some of the young guys that came back and young gals that have came back. And many of them that were teetering on the edge here are going to lose some crop.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I understand you have three kids. Have you spoken to them about going into farming? And do you have grandkids that have seen the book?

WATNE: I do. I do have a granddaughter - one - and she's read the book. And of course, the favorite thing in the book is the sounds. That's what the kids like.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter).

WATNE: All three of my kids - one's a doctor. One works for a farmer co-operative, and one works for a co-operative lending institution. Both my boys have shown some interest. Maybe five years down the road, if the farming is good, we can make something happen with one of them.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Mark Watne is the president of the North Dakota Farmers Union. He's joined us from Jamestown, N.D.

Thank you very much and good luck.

WATNE: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.