Need book research input for a non-fiction book about farming.
I am starting an informational picture book about farming. I am excited to dig in to a field I knew almost nothing about. But I need to some help with doing research on the subject.
Anyone here who lives in a farm, or know someone close to a farm?
I would like to conduct some interviews with farmers who runs a big family farm in the US. At this moment, I am not really look for specific photo references, it is more for sparks of inspiration. I would like to chat about what the daily life is like being a farmer. I am especially interested in what is like growing up in a farm as a child.
Any film you have seen that portraits farmer life in the US?
Anyone has visited a vertical farm in the city? The only thing I can find online seems narrated from a corporation's point of view, or a scientist's point of view. I wonder what the experience is like for a normal people visiting a vertical farm.
Yes. It is a bit wild that I get to do a book like this. Fascinating, and a bit unsure how to dig in. I look forward to get to the rough sketch phase. hehe... ...
Annaaronson last edited by
I don't have a big farm, but I do have chickens and goats. I would be happy to chat, but I'm not sure if that's exactly what you're looking for.
I would maybe look at like farm vet shows? Like- The Incredible Dr Pol (nat geo wild and Disney+), or Heartland Docs. They have good snippets of farm life to look at. They have a lot of episodes with kids at the county fair who raise animals and then show them for 4H.
There is an author that I know of near me in Wisconsin whose family runs a cranberry farm. Her name is Lisl Detlefsen. I don't know her personally, but she has written several farm books and lives on a farm. Maybe she would be willing to chat if you reached out, especially since you're in the same business!
Best of luck!
Melissa_Bailey last edited by
What a cool project to be able to work on!
My grandparents were farmers. They ran a small family farm (mostly crops, some chickens) and when I was a kid I'd go spend a few weeks every summer with them, even helping out in the fields. I can speak on daily farm life for them, but not about what it's like to run a big family farm or commercial farm operation.
When is the book set? Modern or historical? Farms have changed quite a lot over the years.
Not sure how much help this is, but if there are specific things you think I can help out with, happy to do so!
ambria last edited by
@xin-li "I am excited to dig in to a field I knew almost nothing about."
Hehe nice pun.
xin li last edited by xin li
@Annaaronson thank you so much. I will check out the TV shows. The project I am working on seems to be more about the big farms. To give an idea, the reference images I got is more looking like this one.
My challenge is to make this subject approachable by kids. My friend works as an agriculture consultant commented that farming is super fascinating, but it is really hard to make it look interesting in a picture book. hehe... So After doing some thinking, I want to try to make the images as if a child is describing the big farm to readers somehow. The child is the narrator and observer. The text is pretty open. So this line of though might work. I am checking with the editor at this moment.
@Melissa-Bailey-0 The book is set in contemporary time. You mentioned the farms have changed quite a lot over the years, may I ask in what ways?
Does the farmers market exist when you were kid? Have you been to one with your grandparents as a kid? What was your experience with that? what kids do in the market? I am considering starting the book at the farmers market, and end the book at the same market.
I also wonder what are your favourite memories from your grandparents´farm. Could you tell a few good experiences that you remember? I can DM you if you prefer talking about this in private. I actually do not know what I need to know for this book. hehe... So I hope you do not mind that I ask very open-ended questions. I thought maybe stories will help me to figure out what I do not know, and then I can somehow figure out where to find answers.
@ambria I have not thought about that. But yes, it was funny
Laurel Aylesworth 0 last edited by
I haven't seen it yet, but The Biggest Little Farm is a documentary you might want to check out.
@Laurel-Aylesworth-0 I saw the trailer now, and it looks very fun. I will track down the movie and watch it :-). thank you very much.
burvantill Moderator last edited by burvantill
Hello Xin. I have a close friend whose family owns a walnut farm. No animals, just nuts. If that is relevant to your project I can ask if they will interview with you. DM me if you are interested.
PS. I know some basic info about them by just knowing them, so if you want to ask me some questions to see if it's relevant I am here for you.
Melissa_Bailey last edited by
@xin-li hi! Ask away -- happy to help! If you need more info from me than simple short stories (which I'm happy to share here) we may need to have a conversation off of the forum (whether DM, email, or an actual Zoom conversation).
Actually, the reference image you shared took me right back to my childhood -- VERY familiar scene to me! What's happening there is the wheat is being harvested by a tractor called a combine harvester -- it cuts, separates the grain from the head, stores the grain, and expels the chaff (that cloud blowing out of the back). The semi truck in the distance is a grain truck -- every few passes, the combine has to sidle up to the truck and dump the grain into it (the long arm extending from the second combine, the middle vehicle, looks like it's getting ready to unload its grain into the truck bed). While my grandparents' farm was a 2-3 person operation most of the year (Grandpa would hire workers when needed), this scene is very reminiscent of what his farming looked like. With the advent of modern farming, you can harvest an entire wheatfield with only one or two people -- usually one to drive the truck and one to drive the tractor/combine, but sometimes if no one was available I think my grandpa could do it all by himself, it just took a lot longer.
As kids, we thought it was so cool to be on the farm (we were not raised on a farm). The fields looked so HUGE (They are! A typical field was 1/2 mile long in that area.) and when the wind blew across the wheat or bean fields, it looked like ocean waves. The cornfields were fun to get lost in -- they were twice the size we were! (There's a saying "knee high by the fourth of July" -- when we visited in late July or August, the corn was 6-7 feet tall.)
Not all the time on a farm is spent in the fields -- there's quite a bit of time that's spent doing upkeep and making sure things are in good repair. And also time spent planning and preparing. When we visited, Grandpa was usually in the barn by the time we woke up -- he'd come in for lunch around noon and then be back out in the barn or the fields until suppertime. If he wasn't in the fields or using chemicals/pesticides (another change in modern farming), we could go out and visit him, which we did. We'd "help" him fix the tractor or hook up/unhook some farming equipment. Sometimes he'd let us ride in the tractor with him -- very noisy, bumpy, LOUD, and fun. One time he was fixing the combine and allowed us to play around it while he was working. My sister and I were fascinated with the wheels and sat inside the sidewalls and climbed the treads like a jungle gym. Combine wheels are as tall as a man, about 6 feet tall.
That's the thing I remember as a kid -- how BIG everything was! Even as an adult, these machines and farming equipment are huge. But as a kid, looking at it from a shorter perspective, everything was ENORMOUS. Approaching the illustrations from a child's point of view might be really interesting -- looking up at most things instead of straight on or slightly down (as in the reference image, which looks like it might have been taken from the cab of a tractor or combine as the POV is slightly elevated).
Oh ... and holding the baby chicks was a favorite thing to do. They were so cute and fluffy, even though they stunk.
Regarding your question about farmer's markets: there was a farmer's market near my grandparents when I was growing up, and some farmers would sell their produce by the side of the road. But my grandparents didn't do that. They sold their crops to the sugar beet factory in town and the grain elevator a few miles down the road. All of my experiences with farmer's markets have been as an adult shopper.
If you can, you may want to visit a farm in your area. While it won't be an American farm, most farmers nowadays use similar equipment, so it would give you a good sense of scale.
Let me know if this helps, if you need something explained better, or if you have more questions. Looking forward to seeing/hearing more about this book!
Kim Hunter last edited by
To make the images interesting, consider the perspective of a child. Looking up at a combine or large tractor, it would look like a 5 story building to a small child.
@burvantill thank you so much! interesting. I will google a bit about the nut farm, and also check with the author to see if I can use the info from nut farm in the book. I will reach out if I need more help.
@Melissa-Bailey-0 Thank you so much for sharing your stories. I definitely would love to talk more about your experience spending summers in the farm as a child.
Right now, I am waiting for the answers from the author. I sent a bunch of questions to the author, and asking for more references images for specific scenes. I will prepare the interview with people who has farm experience after that. Would it be ok if I reach out to you sometime in September? Zoom conversation would be super :-).
I love how you describe the field is like ocean. It gave me a pretty image in my head :-). Your comments on sense of scale is so spot on. I will definitely work that into the sketch. I went to a farm near by my city, which was ran by a company. I was a bit overwhelmed that day as I had not realised how knowledge intensive agriculture is. But I did not get the chance to see kids around the farm as it is a corporate ran farm. There were many funky machines and customised tractors.
@Kim-Hunter thank you for your input. Perspective. Scale. noted :-).