Nancy Castaldo has published many books about our planet, and her latest picture book The Farm That Feeds Us: A year in the life of an organic farm teaches children and adults alike about the importance of farms, from how they provide food to the world to how farmers must feed and care for the farm in order to sustain a healthy balance. Pre-order the book here!
You have written many books about our planet over the years. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself (career, background)?
I was a curious kid who spent a good deal of my childhood outdoors. Whether in the woods, wetlands, or garden, I was most happy outside. I completed a biology/chemistry double major in college, was president of the science club, and co-editor of my college literary magazine. After college I spent time as an environmental educator and earned a master’s degree. I’m still combining all of those interests today. Science, writing, and photography are all passions of mine. I love writing STEM books and strive to inspire, inform, and empower my young readers. After all they are our hope for the future. Our world needs them now more than ever.
What does living sustainably mean to you personally?
Whenever I can, I buy local from food and farm producers. I am fortunate that there are many food producers in my region. I can buy locally made cheese, yogurt, butter, bread, and milk. I can also buy eggs, salad greens, and other fresh produce. I can even buy locally made ice cream. But I still have to buy foods that are not produced nearby, like oranges, and avocados. When shopping for other goods, I read the labels. I try to buy organic and fair trade items that don’t harm the environment as much. Everybody has to do what works for them, but if everyone makes some good choices along the way we all benefit.
What was your research process like for this book? What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating it? What challenges did you encounter?
I could talk all day about the research. It’s one of my favorite parts of book writing— part scavenger hunt, part Indiana Jones. Unlike many of my other books, researching The Farm That Feeds Us was closer to home. I live in a rural area with lots of family farms. And for that reason I tend to take some things about growing and producing food for granted. It wasn’t until I was out speaking to middle and high school readers about my book The Story of Seeds that I realized how many young people don’t have experiences with farm life. I wanted to give those readers a look into how food is grown and produced in many small, sustainable farms. After all, there are many small farms across the world providing food for their communities. They are the farms preserving our food’s genetic diversity, which ultimately provides us with food security. The Farm That Feeds Us celebrates those farms and is written to share them with my young readers.
What is your process like for paring down so much information into bite-sized pieces for young readers?
I created The Farm That Feeds Us with an outline. Because the book flowed from season to season, I wanted to give readers a taste for what farmers need to be doing at those times. I modeled the farm in The Farm That Feeds Us with one local farm in particular because I know it well and could share its experience with my readers.
What do you hope kids will take away from your book? Why do you think a title like this is necessary for young children?
My favorite book as a child was What Shall I Put In the Hole that I Dig? I think the subject of seeds has been with me ever since. The impact that we can make in the way we produce our food in this era of climate change makes the topic of sustainable agriculture even more important. That said, it is our kids who will move the needle. I am hoping that they will learn about where their food comes from and become more involved with growing their own food, whether in pots on a terrace, in a community garden, or in a family garden at their home. This will increase our food security in the future.
What are next steps people (children, parents, educators) can take to spread the message of your book?
I hope that people will share my book with young gardener friends at libraries, community gardens, farmer’s markets, and school gardens. Springtime is the perfect time to get outside to plant seeds and begin watching the world bloom.
About Nancy Castaldo
Nancy Castaldo has written books about our planet for over 20 years. Her 2016 title The Story of Seeds: From Mendel’s Garden to Your Plate, and How There’s More of Less To Eat Around The World introduces readers to the importance of seeds, farming, and the crisis we currently face. It received the Green Earth Book Award and many other accolades.