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So You'd Like To...Know More About Living on a Farm

Forty years ago when I was a little girl growing up on our dairy farm in west central Wisconsin, I thought everyone lived on a farm. Then again, many of my kindergarten classmates lived on farms, too, so maybe I wasn’t completely off base.

Later on, however, after I had graduated from high school and started traveling around the United States, I was hard-pressed to meet anyone who had ever been on a dairy farm, much less lived on one. People would ask me where I was from and when I told them Wisconsin, they’d say, “I suppose you lived on a dairy farm.”

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After a while, it became clear to me that for people in other states, ‘Wisconsin’ and ‘dairy farm’ were synonymous. I would explain that not everyone in Wisconsin lives on a dairy farm, and then I would find myself answering questions about what it was like growing up on a farm.

Today, most of the small family dairy farms like the one where I grew up are gone. My parents milked 20 cows, but farmers can no longer make a living that way. Milk prices have essentially stayed the same since the 1970s, and many small farmers decided to sell their dairy herds when their business expenses ended up exceeding their gross farm income year after year.

Even though most of the small family farms have disappeared, the evidence that they once existed remains—in the empty dairy barns scattered around the countryside—in the pastures that have been turned into residential subdivisions—in the creameries that have been abandoned or converted into other uses.

And in my stories about growing up on a Wisconsin dairy farm.

My books "Christmas in Dairyland (True Stories from a Wisconsin Farm)" (July 2003) and "Give Me a Home Where the Dairy Cows Roam" (October 2004) each contain 20 true stories about growing up on a family farm 40 years ago. Christmas in Dairyland includes a number of family recipes (lefse; sugar cookies; bon-bons; Christmas bread; fattigman; and several others). Both books are appropriate for readers of all ages.

Christmas in Dairyland -- Celebrate Christmas during a simpler time 40 years ago when happiness was baking cookies, decorating the Christmas tree, or even just getting out of wearing snow boots to school.

Give Me a Home Where the Dairy Cows Roam -- Stories set on a small family dairy farm in Wisconsin 40 years ago at a time when small family farms still dotted the countryside and summertime meant learning to drive the tractor, making ice cream, and riding a pony to the hayfield.

Here are what some of my readers are saying about the books:

I have to tell you I feel a little sad. Just read the LAST page of "Give me a home where the dairy cows roam." I enjoyed every word. . .I wish your book went on forever . . .now, bring on "Cream of the Crop!" I'll be waiting! Anita(Wisconsin)

I really have enjoyed both of your books so much! As I mentioned before, this is my life between the covers of your book and it really takes me back to the good life we had growing up. Your father sounds like he was a very compassionate and caring individual, as my father was and I think most small-time farmers were: always putting their family and cows first. I also loved all your haying stories, as I could also relate to all of your events. Well done and I look forward to your next book! Carol (Massachusetts)

I have read both of your books ("Christmas in Dairyland" and "Give Me a Home Where the Dairy Cows Roam")and thoroughly enjoyed all the stories! I think my favorite is the one when you FINALLY got your horse, Dusty. What a wonderful writer you are, as I feel like I'm right there with you on all of your adventures! My mother-in-law loved the books, also. Keep up the good work! Looking forward to more books! Danielle (Indiana)

I'm in the middle of reading "Give Me a Home Where the Dairy Cows Roam." I also enjoyed reading "Christmas in Dairyland" You know how to make the reader feel like we are right there. When is your next book coming out? Carol (Nebraska)

Visit to find out how to order Christmas in Dairyland and Give Me a Home Where the Dairy Cows Roam.

More Books About Farms:

Books that are appropriate for younger readers (ages 4 to 8) include:

  • "Living on Farms" (Allan Fowler; 2000)
  • "Moonstruck: The Story of the Cow Who Jumped Over the Moon" (Gennifer Choldenko; 1997)
  • Another book that tells more about the country lifestyle is "Country Style: Living the Farm Life" (Doris Stensland; 2004)

Here are some other classic books of true stories that relate to country life and farm life:

  • "All Things Wise and Wonderful" (James Herriot; 1998)
  • "All Creatures Great and Small" (James Herriot; 1998)
  • "The Lord God Made Them All" (James Herriot; 1998)
  • "Every Living Thing" (James Herriot; 1993)
  • "James Herriot's Dog Stories" (James Herriot; 1990)
  • "James Herriot's Cat Stories" (James Herriot; 1994)
  • "Once Upon a Farm" (Lois Stark; 1992)
  • "Farmer Boy" (Laura Ingalls Wilder; 1953)
  • "On the Banks of Plum Creek" (Laura Ingalls Wilder; 1953)
  • "By the Shores of Silver Lake" (Laura Ingalls Wilder; 1953)
  • "Little House on the Prairie" (Laura Ingalls Wilder; 1953)
  • "Little House in the Big Woods" (Laura Ingalls Wilder; 1953)
  • "The Long Winter" (Laura Ingalls Wilder; 1953)
  • "Little Town on the Prairie" (Laura Ingalls Wilder; 1953)
  • "The Land Remembers" (Ben Logan; 25th Anniversary edition; 1999)
  • "One Room Country School" (Jerry Apps; 1996)
  • "Barns of Wisconsin" (Jerry Apps; 2001)
  • "Humor from the Country" (Jerry Apps; 2001)
  • "Rural Wisdom: Time-Honored Values of the Midwest" (Jerry Apps; 1997)
  • "Every Farm Tells a Story" (Jerry Apps; March 2005)
  • Country Ways and Country Days: From Windvanes and Tractors to Auctions and Outhouses: Remembering Rural Life (Jerry Apps; July 2005)
  • "Cheese: The Making of a Wisconsin Tradition" (Jerry Apps; April 1998)
  • "When Chores Were Done" (Jerry Apps; January 1999)

LeAnn Ralph may be contacted at
LeAnn R. Ralph is the author of the books: "Christmas in Dairyland (True Stories from a Wisconsin Farm)" ( August 2003), "Preserve Your Family History (A Step-by-Step Guide for Writing Oral Histories)" (e-book, April 2004), and "Give Me a Home Where the Dairy Cows Roam" (Oct. 2004). You are invited to sign up for LeAnn's FREE! monthly e-mail newsletter, Rural Route 2 News & Updates. Visit —

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