Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Fredrickson’s book presents field work, past and present August 3, 2010

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ONCE UPON A TIME, I told my farmer-dad I wanted to be a farmer when I grew up. Clearly, I became a writer instead of a tender of the land or of animals. But my heart remains rooted in the southwestern Minnesota prairie, my childhood home, the place where I worked in the barns, worked in the fields and became the person I am today.

For those reasons I particularly appreciate children’s picture books like those written by Lakeville author Gordon W. Fredrickson who specializes in writing about country life and farming.

His second, If I Were a Farmer book, Field Work, recently released from Beaver’s Pond Press, just in time for Minnesota’s annual celebration of agriculture, Farmfest. Fredrickson and his wife, Nancy, will be in the Craft/toy/home and garden pavilion during Farmfest’s three-day run this week at the Gilfillan Estate between Morgan and Redwood Falls. The event opens at 8 a.m. today.

That pitch aside, let me tell you a bit about Fredrickson. He grew up on a Scott County dairy farm, did his share of farm chores and working the land, farmed for awhile as an adult and taught high school English. He possesses the experience, knowledge, skills and passion to write about agriculture in an interesting, informative and, sometimes, humorous fashion.

Fredrickson’s subtle humor shines in Field Work as page by opposite page, he compares past farming practices and farm equipment to modern-day farming practices and equipment.

His book reconnects me to the past, to those years on the farm. So for that reason, Fredrickson’s story also appeals to adults, particularly former farm kids.

For those unfamiliar with agriculture through the years, Fredrickson’s story provides a history lesson. He even includes a glossary (per my suggestion after publication of an earlier book) to further aid readers in understanding the equipment and other terminology used in his story.

From working the soil through planting and harvesting, this former farmer details the growing season via would-be farmers. Little Nancy imagines herself as a modern-day farmer while Tommy prefers older equipment and practices from about the 1950s. Children, especially those ages 6 – 8, will enjoy the storyline and the educational content woven into it.

I don’t want to spoil the ending for you, but the humorous clincher last page clearly shows me that Fredrickson, even though an award-winning writer now, is a true mustard-pulling, rock-picking, scoop-shoveling farm boy at heart.

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IN ADDITION TO FIELD WORK, Fredrickson has also published If I Were a Farmer: Nancy’s Adventure and three books in the Farm Country Tales series–Christmas Eve, Halloween and Thanksgiving.

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FIELD WORK ILLUSTRATOR David H. Jewell of Minneapolis died on July 15 after being hospitalized for pneumonia. He suffered from diabetes and related complications.

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JUST FOR FUN, I asked Redwood County historian and Redwood Falls Mayor Gary Revier if he had any old farm photos he could share for publication on this post. He obliged and here are just three of the many he e-mailed. These hearken back to the days of horse-drawn machinery, even earlier than the time period covered in Fredrickson’s Field Work.

This threshing scene is near my hometown of Vesta in southwestern Minnesota, in Redwood County, home to Farmfest. Given the label, I assume this was at the George Alexander farm.

Another threshing scene, this one from the Whittet place in Redwood County.

A field scene from Sundown Township.

© Text Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Photos courtesy of Gary Revier

Book cover image courtesy of Gordon W. Fredrickson