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Author teaches students about farming era

Wadena-Deer Creek students traveled back in time, where they learned what life on the small family farm in the 1950s was like.

On March, 30, Lakeville author Gordon Fredrickson read from one of his books, “If I Were a Farmer: Nancy’s Adventure,” to students in grades K-4 in the WDC Elementary media center. Pulling from his own experiences from childhood and incorporating accurate detail in storybook form, Fredrickson’s goal is to preserve our heritage of farm life from a time gone by.

"My purpose is to tell the story of farming because it needs to be told,” said Fredrickson, who was born in New Prague and raised on a 120-acre dairy farm in Scott County. Like most farm children, he began work on the farm as a young child. His chores included milking cows, carrying water to the chickens and hogs and picking dandelions to feed the goslings.

After his childhood days on the farm, Fredrickson served in the U.S. Army for three years, earned a Master’s of Education degree at the University of Minnesota and taught high school English for 16 years before he began writing farm stories.

"I started writing books because when my parents passed away, I wanted to show what it was like back in the year 1950,” said Fredrickson.

His purpose in telling these stories is not to glorify the “good, old days,” but instead to portray life on a small farm the way most people remember it - “full of hard work, riddled with daily sacrifice, lacking conveniences, void of vacations, and yet, somehow, satisfying and invigorating.”

WDC students enjoyed learning from Fredrickson how to call the cows from the pasture, by hollering “Come Boss, Come Boss,” as well as how to teach an (imaginary) newborn calf to drink milk - by dipping your fingers in the milk bucket and sticking those milky fingers in the calf’s mouth. Reading from his book, Fredrickson described how the barn cats would scurry from all directions, even across the backs of cows, when he called “Kitty, Kitty, Kitty!” for fresh milk.  

Fredrickson also shared with students to “always help your neighbors,” “take good care of your animals” and to find time to read. He recalled his two older sisters would read to him, mostly to keep him out of mischief, joked Fredrickson. But he said it gave him a love and appreciation for reading and writing.

He also encouraged students to ask their grandparents and parents about growing up on a farm and to share those memories. “A story not told is lost forever,” Fredrickson said.

The author’s visit at WDC was made possible by several people and organizations. University of Minnesota-Crookston Ag Professor and Collegiate FFA Advisor Lyle Westrom was responsible for adding WDC to Fredrickson’s book tour. Westrom is the father to Katy Westrom, who taught music at WDC Elementary in 2013-14.

“Without Lyle’s involvement, Mr. Fredrickson’s visit would not have happened,” said Richard Muckala, WDC Industrial Arts teacher and FFA advisor. “We are very grateful for Lyle’s help and happy to host Gordon and Nancy Fredrickson, who do a fantastic job of telling the story of farming to our youth.”

Fredrickson’s author visit was funded in part from local sponsorships generously given by Wadena businesses, An Open Book, Leaf River Ag and David Paulson Agency & Realty. Special thanks to Loni Niles, WDC media specialist, for coordinating this educational event too.

A portion of the proceeds from Fredrickson’s book sales will benefit the Wadena-Deer Creek FFA Club. Most recently, Fredrickson received an Honorary Chapter FFA Degree from the University of Minnesota-Crookston Collegiate FFA for preserving farm heritage and promoting agricultural literacy through literature.

This is the second time Fredrickson has shared his love of farming with WDC students. Four years ago, he was at WDC Elementary, and many of his books are already in the elementary’s library collection. Fredrickson has written 10 children’s books about farming, with two more about to be printed. He and his wife, Nancy, travel together to schools, threshing shows, historical societies, museums and more to spread the word of farm heritage, agricultural literacy and farm pride.