When Conny Kappler decided to write a children’s book about how food is produced, she didn’t have to look far for subject material.
In fact, 90 per cent of the photos in her new book — Dirt to Dinner — come from the market garden she operates near Rolling Hills, south of Brooks.
“I want kids to know that there’s a lot to agriculture and it depends on a lot of things,” said Kappler, who was a soil science major at university and started making photo books for her grandchildren a few years ago in order to show them how food is grown.
The 40-page book uses scientific facts and focuses on basics, posing questions such as, ‘Did you know your dinner started out as a seed?’ It also looks at topics such as photosynthesis, rhizobium bacteria, bee pollination, and irrigation.
It also explains that many people besides farmers play key roles in our food system.
“Farming depends on so many factors. I also talk about the other partners,” she said. “As farmers, we can’t be an island. We need other people helping us, like scientists, microbiologists, entomologists, bank managers and the people who help us sell and serve our food.”
Kappler sits on Cypress County’s Agricultural Service Board, which has passed resolutions to advocate for more agricultural education in area classrooms. That’s something she also feels strongly about.
“I had three main reasons for writing this book,” said Kappler, who created the book with collaborator Ralaina Virostek, a photographer and graphic designer. “I wanted to connect rural and urban people. I wanted to encourage reading, and I wanted to teach kids about agriculture.”
A longtime volunteer with the Classroom Agriculture Program, she said the text in the book is heavily influenced by the talk she gives to students and hopes it will be something other Classroom Agriculture Program volunteers will be able to use.
To promote the book and agriculture in general, Kappler, who once worked as an ag fieldman, wrote to all of the agricultural services boards in the province, asking them to buy books to donate to schools in their counties. So far, Cypress County has purchased 10 books for schools in Redcliff, Medicine Hat and the surrounding county and the Municipal District of Smoky River has also purchased 10 books.
“I’m connecting agricultural service boards to their urban neighbours,” she said.
Kappler will also be selling the book ($18 plus GST) at her produce stand at the Medicine Hat Farmers’ Market and it can also be ordered through ilovedirt.ca. It is aimed at children with a Grade 2-6 reading level.
Kappler hopes to finish two more books by next Christmas. Her second book will be called Dirt to Doughnuts and will focus on sugar beets, wheat, canola, milk and eggs, which are all included in doughnuts. A third — Dirt to Denim — will focus on cotton, hemp, and wool, and how these agricultural items are made into clothes.
Kappler, who has done several media interviews for the book, said she is thrilled with the response so far.