Farm animals in children's books aren't anything new. But this just-released book leaves the bucolic imagery behind and provides kids (and parents) something different: a humorous, balanced — but clear — connection between farm animals and the food we eat.
The Cow in Patrick O'Shanahan's Kitchen is the first book for writer, mother, farmer and friend Diana Prichard. I met Diana the night before we boarded a plane for Ethiopia with the ONE Campaign. Her sense of humor and intelligence were front and center right away.
Throughout our trip, her farming experience and knowledge of politics added depth to my own observations. My city-girl perspective needed balance, and she was always there to point out details to notice and understand about the rural areas we visited.
I asked Diana a few questions so you can get to know her better.
You're a hog farmer, a writer, and a parent. In other words, you've got a lot going on. What made you want to write a children's book?
Delusion? I kid, but seriously, I'm not going to try to come off as some sort of super woman. Plain and simple, it's just a lot to juggle — for anyone. And with the book added to the list I'm still trying to find some kind of happy balance that works for our family.
This project is really important to me though, so I feel like all the stumbling blocks are worth it. There's a lot of misinformation, hyperbole, and fear marketing going on in the food and farm world, and consumers are busy. Mothers, especially, are busier now than ever before, and they're being bombarded by messages all day, every day.
As a farmer it's frustrating to see companies willfully mislead consumers to bolster their bottom line, and sometimes it's even frustrating to see consumers falling for those same old tactics. But as a busy consumer just like everyone else, I can completely understand. If I weren't living this everyday would I have the wherewithal to sort through the messages? I'm not so sure I would.
So that's what it really boils down to — both the book and the other writing work I do — I want to spur balanced discussion about where food comes from. I'm very fortunate to have the access to farms and farmers that I do, and I want to share it with people who don't have the same good fortune.
I'm really passionate about empowering consumers to make informed food choices — whatever they may be.
Some parents may hesitate to make the direct connection between farm animals and food we eat. The Cow in Patrick O'Shanahan's Kitchen gives parents a sweet, gentle way to "go there" with their kids. What has the response been so far?
It can be a really tough topic, and being respectful while not sugar-coating was something I tried to balance from the beginning.
During the revision process we even talked about the terms for various parts of animal anatomy — when Patrick milks the cow the words "udder," and "teat" come up — and what we ultimately decided was that if we can just broach it lightly and then let parents decide how to go from there everyone wins.
Like I said, I want to empower people to have those balanced discussions and make those informed decisions. I'm a livestock farmer so, as you can imagine, I'm perfectly okay with animal products. But if another parent isn't, I wanted them to be able to take this book and talk about that, too.
Tell me about your publisher, Little Pickle Press.
I had to travel halfway around the world to meet Rana DiOrio, the founder and "Chief Executive Pickle" of Little Pickle Press, and I'm so glad I did. [Note from Asha: So am I. Rana was also a member of the ONEMoms delegation to Ethiopia.]
Last October, at a restaurant in the middle of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, I happened to choose a seat next to her at dinner. She cracked a joke that I don't even remember anymore, but what I do remember is thinking, "We're going to get along just fine." And, of course, we have.
What I learned during our conversation following that joke is that Little Pickle Press is an independent children's book publisher specializing in children's media with positive messages. After ten days in a developing country together I could tell Rana didn't just "talk the talk, she also "walks the walk," so when we returned I told her we ought to put our heads together to bring positive food and farm messages to kids. She was on board from moment one and has been incredible to work with over the past year.
What's the #1 message you hope kids will get from your book?
That they don't have to rely on advertisements to tell them where food comes from and what food choices they should make. Regardless of where they live, they can reach out and learn for themselves — maybe even hands on.
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Isn't Diana awesome? Her book is, too.
At Amazon: The Cow In Patrick O'Shanahan's Kitchen (Little Pickle Press)
Giveaway entries are now closed. Thank you to all who entered — I'll deliver the good news to the winner via email.