SD rancher provides voice for ag in children’s book

Promoting the beef industry was the furthest thing from Amanda Radke’s mind when she graduated from high school in 2006. Her plan was to get as far away as possible from agriculture. She did so by pursuing internships and studying in places such as Washington, D.C., and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Away from home, her interactions with people with little or no knowledge of what it takes to produce beef led her back to her agricultural roots. Over the past four years, Radke has developed Amanda Radke Communications LLC, working as a freelance writer for several beef-related publications.

She has also provided keynote presentations at a variety of events, schooling herself in the art of serving as a beef industry advocate. Her most recent and well-received effort is a children’s book, “Levi’s Lost Calf.”

Key Points

Mitchell, S.D., ranch woman pens ag book for children.

In her tale, a boy searches the ranch for his lost calf.

She hopes to write more books for children and adults.

“The book was a natural extension of what I was already doing,” Radke says. “I believe the cowboy spirit is still alive and well. Through this book, kids can experience that.”

Radke tells the story of Little Red, a calf that gets separated from his mother. Determined to prove his independence and find his favorite heifer calf, young cowboy Levi heads out on Pepper, his horse. His trusty dog Gus tags along. In the search for the calf, Levi explores several different places and animals on the ranch.

In addition to Levi’s adventure, Radke included beef information and recipes in the back of the book.

“Readers can learn about 29 different beef cuts and review a glossary of beef terms,” Radke says. “The recipes are kid-friendly. My thought was that those educational elements of the book would be helpful to teachers who might use the book in a classroom.”

In addition to Radke’s creative writing skills, readers can enjoy the illustrative artwork Michelle Weber created for “Levi’s Lost Calf.” The partnership, Radke notes, was the natural outgrowth of the women’s friendship.

“Michelle and her husband Jesse raise Red Angus at Lake Benton [Minn.],” Radke says. “I knew Michelle liked to paint, so I approached her about creating the illustrations. She and I have a lot in common, sharing our Christian values, farm backgrounds and being young producers in the cattle business. I believe Michelle will be the next big agricultural artist.”

Radke published her book through CreateSpace, a self-publishing service affiliated with Amazon. She’s marketing the book online through her website at, Amazon and some ag-related organizations.

“The South Dakota Farm Bureau selected ‘Levi’s Calf’ as the book they’ll promote throughout 2012,” Radke says. “They’ll purchase copies and donate them to schools, doctor’s offices and libraries. It’s something they do each year.”

It hasn’t taken Radke long to begin forming ideas for a second book. Readers have suggested a companion book that features Levi’s sister.

“I’ve had requests for children’s books featuring pigs, sheep and other farm animals,” Radke says. “A story about Levi growing up and taking Little Red to the fair is an idea I had, too. My biggest goal is to write romance novels set on cattle ranches. I hope to help today’s women fall in love with ranch life as I have.

Today’s consumer is three generations removed from the farm, but these kinds of stories often remind people of their grandpa and the farm they visited as children. Seeing kids get excited about the story and learning about the beef industry is my biggest reward.”

Sorensen is from Yankton, S.D.


AUTHOR: Amanda Radke, Mitchell, S.D., advocates for agriculture in a self-published children’s book.

11111320A.tifCOVER ART: The cover of Amanda Radke’s book brings Levi’s search for his lost calf, Little Red, to life. Michelle Weber, a Minnesota cattle producer, is the illustrator.

This article published in the November, 2011 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.