‘Big kid’ Fry inspires new children’s book on dairy farming
DAVIDSONVILLE, Md. — Feeding Minds Press, a project of the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture, will publish Tales of the Dairy Godmother: Chuck’s Ice Cream Wish, a picture book that portrays the dairy industry on March 17.
The children’s book is loosely inspired by Maryland dairy farmer and former Maryland Farm Bureau president, Chuck Fry.
“Being a dairy farmer doesn’t ring true to kids. We get hung up on the things we do but it isn’t relevant to people today. When you equate what you do with food, it’s better,” said Fry, who calls himself “Chuckie the ice cream farmer.”
Fry was serving on the board for the American Farm Bureau Foundation when the book was in a concept phase. Christy Lilja, the late director for the foundation, came to Fry with the idea for a book about the dairy industry.
“Christy came to me at the onset. They had a title and concept for the book but she said she wanted to make it about me because I call myself an ice cream farmer and that’s funny. They changed the character and started going from there,” Fry said.
Julia Recko, Education Outreach Director for the American Farm Bureau Foundation said, “If you know Chuck, he’s like a big kid and he was the perfect guy to use in the book.”
Chuck’s Ice Cream Wish was written by Viola Butler and illustrated by Ward Jenkins.
“We started working with Ward because he had the right look, but he didn’t have a background in agriculture,” Recko said. “He lives right outside of Atlanta and the first thing we wanted to do was get him out on farms.”
Working with the Georgia Farm Bureau and Georgia Dairy Alliance, the Foundation set up tours for Ward on small, medium and large dairy farms so that he could capture an accurate portrayal of the dairy industry.
“We want these books to be accurate as well as interesting and engaging,” Recko said.
Chuck’s Ice Cream Wish follows the story of a child who wishes for an endless supply of his favorite food — ice cream.
His Dairy Godmother takes him on a journey to the farm where Chuck learns how ice cream is made.
At the end of the book, there is a link to a video where readers can take a virtual tour of Chuck Fry’s real dairy farm in Frederick, Md.
“We didn’t just want to tell a story, we wanted to connect readers with a real farmer,” Recko said. “We visited Chuck’s farm and captured his day-to-day life, doing farm chores and making ice cream. It makes the book come alive.”
Feeding Minds Press grew from a need for agriculturally accurate books.
“The foundation nominates a book of the year and every year, our pile of books to choose from was getting smaller and smaller and in some cases, non-existent,” Recko said. “We saw the need and decided to do it ourselves.”
The foundation established Feeding Minds Press and published its first book, “Right This Very Minute,” in 2019.
Chuck’s Ice Cream Wish is the second book to be published by Feeding Minds Press.
“There are a lot of ‘Old McDonald has a farm’ books and we need ‘New McDonald flies a drone’,” Recko said. “If young readers’ first impressions of agriculture are ‘Old McDonald’, we’re off to a bad start because that depiction is inaccurate.”
From Fry’s experience, he said people are very disconnected from their food.
“Everyone knows ice cream and pizza,” Fry said. “By putting the product first, it resonates more with kids and people.”
Fry said people come to the farm for ice cream and still don’t make the connection to agriculture.
“They come to the ice cream stand and ask where the farm is or where the milk comes from. They don’t even realize they’re in the middle of the farm,” Fry said. “Obviously the book is about ice cream, but it’s about education and helping people understand where their food comes from.”
Through Feeding Minds Press, Recko said, the foundation is able to inform and entertain and engage the agricultural industry in the process.
“These books offer farmers and ranchers an opportunity to have conversations about what they do. It creates an easy door — there’s nothing quite like a picture book to help start a conversation,” Recko said.
When Right This Very Minute was published, American Farm Bureau Grassroots Outreach Team members produced videos showing people what they were doing that very minute on their farms.
“It helps bring agriculture to life for readers and helps them learn in a very authentic way,” Recko said.
Chuck’s Ice Cream Wish is currently available for pre-order on Amazon and Recko said bulk orders can be placed through the American Farm Bureau Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fry said he will do some on-farm promotion of the book at Rocky Point Creamery when it publishes later this month.
“The book isn’t really about me, it’s about an industry that most people don’t think about,” Fry said. “It’s relevant to what we do and it’s a fun thing — anyone who knows me knows that’s who I really am. The better part of this is that people can connect with the book and say, ‘Hey I know that dude’.”
Recko said Feeding Minds Press is open for submissions and urged people to submit their ideas at feedingmindspress.com.
“We are always looking for authentic stories and we encourage submissions. That’s how we got this story. Anyone can submit a manuscript and we want to hear about the stories farmers and ranchers have to tell,” Recko said.