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Student brings farm fields to family rooms with new children’s book

It started with a paper airplane. It became a children’s book that has sold 200 copies and counting. 

Kourtney Otte, a sophomore in agricultural sciences education and communication (ASEC) and agricultural economics, made a list of goals at the beginning of high school. The first thing on the list was that she wanted to write a book before she turned 21.

Otte put the goal to the side and did not pursue it until she went to a conference for agriculture students last fall. At the conference, participants wrote down their personal fears on a paper airplane and tossed them into the air to make the fears “fly away.” 

A woman caught Otte’s airplane, which said Otte was afraid of not accomplishing her goals. “The woman said, ‘I saw what your fear is, and the worst thing that you can do is not start.’ That is exactly what I needed to hear.” 

Three months shy of turning 21, Otte decided to write a children’s book. She started and finished the book, titled “The Young American Farmer,” over Thanksgiving break. The book, featuring Otte’s original story and illustrations, is now available through Amazon.

Kourtney Otte proudly displays her book. The book's cover has the character Millie on it. Millie a young girl with short, brown hair, overalls, and a straw hat. Kourtney Otte holds a copy of her newly released book. It covers topics from life on a farm to what farms can produce to what it means to be a farmer.

Otte wanted her book to teach the basics of agriculture, so she created the character Millie. Millie (who is named after Otte’s puppy) talks about her experiences living on a farm.

Otte explains,

The book isn't meant to be this all-knowing document about agriculture. It's meant to introduce agriculture to children and prompt adults to ask questions that encourage research and conversations with agriculturalists.” 

Otte grew up on a family farm but realizes not everyone has that experience. She remembers one friend in high school thinking that Walmart created its own food without farmers. This experience influenced Otte to pursue agricultural education and make it the focus of her first book.  

The royalties from “The Young American Farmer” will go to a new ASEC program called Leaders in Education Agriculture Preparing Students (LEAPS) that Otte founded. The program gives ASEC students opportunities to build agriculture into curricula while also adding experience to their resumes.

Otte holds up her book to a group of kindergarten students Otte reads to a group of kindergartners at a local elementary school. Otte dedicated "The Young American Farmer" to "young agriculturalists" like these students, who she hopes will want to learn more about the possibilities of agriculture.

“I’m a writer and a futurist,” Otte said. “My biggest goal is to figure out what the future of agriculture needs, what the future of ag education needs.”

Otte intends for this book to be the first of many. “I have a couple other books that I'm drafting through right now, but I'm taking it a lot slower this time. I want each book to dive into a different sector of agriculture.”

Otte credits her accomplishment to being in the College of Agriculture.

The College of Agriculture has opened my eyes to the breadth of what agriculture is and what we can also do as students,” Otte said. “I often think, ‘Oh, I'm just a student. I can't do that because I'm so young.’ Purdue Agriculture has shown me that whatever I thought I was capable of, I can do so much more.”

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