Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:41 AM
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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.


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.


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


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


18 Responses to “Fredrickson’s book presents field work, past and present”

  1. Gordon Says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments. Your own passion for writing and your background in rural Minnesota give a legitimacy to your comments that, for me, multiplies the worth of your words by ten.
    I think you understand more than most the dance of my writing children’s books aimed at pleasing adults and kids.
    And you also know that writers who write with passion do not choose their subject matter; instead, their passion chooses the subject matter for them. Keep on blogging. Gordon

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Well said, Gordon. Indeed, your comments prove to me that we are kindred spirits in this passion we possess for writing.

  2. Geert Vandromme Says:

    Thanks for this pics. My grandfather Gustaaf Vandromme lived in Vesta Minnesota between 1915 till 1932. With his first wife and 4 kids. After his wife Arleen Claeys died at the age off 39, he came back with 4 little kids to his birthplace Belgium Europe.
    Nice to see where he lived as a farmer.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Now that is interesting. Happy I could show you the place your grandfather once lived in America. If my grandma was still alive, I’d ask if she knew your grandfather.

      • Geert Vandromme Says:

        Thanks again for the pics. From time to time, i check out the internet to find information about this area. The first wife ‘ Arleen Claeys” off my grandfather died in Vesta. So i think she is burried there to. An uncle off mine always carried a photo off her grave in his wallet. He is also passed, so i can not ask him for information.
        Nice to find this site. Thanks

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        You are welcome. Perhaps I will look for Arleen’s grave the next time I visit the Vesta Cemetery.

      • Geert Vandromme Says:

        Thanks, it would be great if you could check out iff there is still a grave off Arleen.
        Iff there is still a grave, will you photograph it, please?
        My familiy and me would be very thankfull .


      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        I will ask around and see if there is a list of individuals buried in the Vesta Cemetery. That would be quicker as it may be some time before I get back to my hometown. And by then, the cemetery will likely be buried in snow and the tombstones inaccessible.

      • Geert Vandromme Says:

        Thank you so much.
        After all this years, is there no hurry with it. I am just curious.

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        I just emailed the City of Vesta to see if there is a list of individuals buried in the cemetery. That is a start.

  3. Geert Vandromme Says:

    Thanks Audrey,

    By the way there must still be people living off the Vandromme family in Tracy Mn.
    My grandfather had also a brother August in the USA who immigrated from Belgium and stayed in Minnesota the rest off his live. Another brother Odille lived in Marshall but he came back to Belgium.
    My grandfather lived also in Marshall in the beginning, than he moved to Ypsilanti North Dakota. But the extreem cold winters there brought him to Vesta, where he lived as a farmer with wife and kids.
    After the dead off his wife, he could not take care off 4 little children on his own and came back to his family in Belgium. The meaning was to go back on the farm in Vesta. But after he was remarried he finaly stayed in Belgium.
    As kids we heard great storys off his time in Minnesota. I remember photo’s off a wooden house with al snow around and also a motorcycle sidecar he was driving .


    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      It sounds like you need to make a journey to Minnesota. Tracy and Marshall are within 20 – 25 miles of Vesta. It’s interesting to hear your family stories.

  4. Geert Vandromme Says:

    Someday i will visite Minnesota. First i am searching information about history and connection with people off family Vandromme. Maybe those people are interrested in there roots It would be fantastic to share information with them. Maybe they don’t even know that much about roots in Belgium.
    I know for sure there are still living people with the name Vandromme and Casper in Tracey. Jane Vandromme born in Belgium , daughter off August died in 2006 in Tracey at the age off 94. Her husband Emanuel Casper died in 1999. I don’t know about any children.
    How more i am learnig about my family. How more i like to know.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      And it sounds like you have a good start on learning about the part of your family that lived in Minnesota.

      • geert vandromme Says:

        Hello Audry,

        It’s been a while i am surching on the internet and bit by bit i found information about family in Minnesota and all over the USA. I also follow youre blog. It is a good way for me to learn about youre country. Specally the photo’s give me an idea how it must be over there.
        By the way how is the weather ? I hear everday in the news about the extreme cold . I hope you are doing allright.
        Greets from Belgium.

      • It’s good to hear from you and also to know that you appreciate my blog posts.

        The weather? If you look at my posts for the past week, you’ll get a good summary of our Minnesota weather. Cold and snowy.

  5. Vandromme Says:

    Hello Audrey,
    I still follow youre posts and learned about Minnesota people. Thanks.
    Meanwhile i keep collecting information about family Vandromme in Minnesota and find some still living in Tracy. We stay in touch.

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