As the father to a 3-year old I’ve read a massive amount of children’s books. And I’ve listened to a lot of children’s music too. Many stories are focused on our idyllic memory of traditional farms and farming. You know, like: “Old MacDonald had a farm, E I E I O.” Of course, none of these stories have been updated to reflect the realities of modern farming. I’m unaware of any current version of Old MacDonald, but I could imagine one:
“Old MacDonald had a CAFO, E I E I O, and on that CAFO he crated his pigs, oh no oh no oh!”
I recently even discovered a music CD “On the Farm, with Ronno,” where one of the songs–“Hooray for Farm Machines”–actually celebrates pesticide sprayers! “I am a giant sprayer, I am a farm machine…. I spray the crops to kill the weeds…. Hooray hooray hip hip hooray! Farm machines are hard at work, every single day.”
And of course, at the extreme, there are even advert-books like Plow! Plant! Grow! (one of several produced by John Deere), that, obviously, celebrate the farm machinery the company sells.
Truthfully, it is not a rhythmic or rhyming masterpiece. And it’s certainly not a Dr. Seussian fantasy that will keep children and adults rapt from beginning to end after dozens of readings.*
But it is an interesting story, with a coherent plot centered on a family escaping the “rat race” to start a farm and discovering that modern farming wisdom is leading to hard work for them and misery for their plants and livestock.
Then just beyond their fence, Eden–the daughter and protagonist–discovers that their neighbor, Phil, is a permaculture expert. And he–Mr. Miyagi style–poses questions to little Eden inspiring her to go back and discover better ways to manage their farm. Needless to say, Eden’s father eventually meets Phil and becomes a permaculture convert and the world becomes a little better than before.
A nice little book, well illustrated, and complete with a glossary to help teach parents, as well as children, about permaculture practices. Certainly worth sharing with your child, at the very least to combat some of the farm propaganda they’re constantly being exposed too. At least until a new version of Old MacDonald takes hold.
Sing it with me: “Old MacDonald had a CAFO, E I E I O, and on his CAFO he had some beakless chicks, oh no oh no oh.”
*Dr. Seuss is the master and I bow down to his magroogily magnificence. Praise be to his servants, Sam, the Lorax, and Thing 1 and Thing 2.
Erik Assadourian is senior fellow with the Worldwatch Institute, creator of Yardfarmers, a reality TV show encouraging Millennial Americans to move back home with their parents and farm their yards, and father to Ayhan, his 3-year old son.