I had the great pleasure of delivering the keynote speech at the National Agriculture in the Classroom conference in Louisville, KY. Being the only writer among hundreds of teachers and program coordinators, I was in a prime position to reap a bushel full of fresh writing ideas that have instant appeal to a specific market as well as a general audience.
I had never heard of an agricultural literary market until my book, Farmer George Plants a Nation, won a few awards from state Farm Bureaus in 2008. That's when I learned about Ag in the Classroom and the enormous network of people in each state who promote the importance of agriculture to children and the wider community.
To help get the word out about how vital agriculture is to every part of our lives these people need great books. That's where you come in. The catch is that these books need to be accurate. No Ol' McDonald in overalls sitting on a stool milking a single cow. They want to see modern carousels with cows milked round the clock -- accurate portrayals of modern farms.
Julia Recko of the American Farm Bureau Federation said there was a need for books on poultry. Not my cup of tea. But if you can accurately create a positive story about the workings of a poultry farm, then you've got an audience waiting. Although the meat industry may be a little difficult to represent - can't have Larry the Lamb narrate his life from pasture to plate -- there are hundreds of other farm products that have fascinating stories behind them. You just have to look. Ask around. Visit a local farm. Think about cranberry bogs, aquaculture... Take a popular food and trace it back to the soil. Find a new slant on salad greens.
Some good representative titles include: Weaving a Rainbow by George Ella Lyon, Who Grew My Soup by Tom Darbyshire, and Extra Cheese Please! by Cris Peterson.
Or go the historical route as I did. Find a true story that highlights an agricultural innovation, the origins of a favorite food, or shows how farming has shaped our culture.
Check out your state's ag in the classroom website and become familiar with the kinds of books they use. Are there subjects they don't have that you could research? Look at the lessons they offer teachers. What kinds of books would go along with those lessons?
When searching for your next nonfiction idea, consider an agricultural story, and you, too, will get to meet the fine people who make up Ag in the Classroom.