Not many people can say they’ve written and published a book of their own, but Hannah and Haidyn Barnard have done just that at the ages of only 8 and 10 years old.
The sisters from Portal took to the written word to share their experiences growing up on a farm in their book, “FarmKids: A Year in Our Lives at WhiteBarn.” To date, the book has made its way to dozens of states and even several countries around the world, including South Korea, Italy and Germany.
The book takes readers through several day-to-day duties on the WhiteBarn family farm, including baling hay, branding calves and driving a tractor. The farm mainly produces beef, though beans, alfalfa, corn and chiles are also part of its history. In one particularly poignant section, the family works together to take care of an orphaned calf who was found on the ranch.
“My daddy brought a dogie calf into our yard from a ranch because he didn’t have a mom,” Hannah recounted. “We bottle-fed him and just took care of him, and we named him Whitaker.”
In the book, Hannah and Haidyn emphasize the importance of knowing where food comes from, breaking down the process of agriculture for those who do not have farms of their own.
“It doesn’t just come from the back of the store,” Haidyn said. “It comes from farms all around the world, from hardworking families.”
The book also includes a handwritten glossary, handily defining agriculture terms like “windrow — a row of cut hay” and “flank — picking up a calf to lay it down” for those less initiated in the agriculture industry.
Encouraged by close family friend and rancher Wink Crigler to share their story, the young authors took on the project by documenting one farm task a day, including taking photos with the help of their mother.
“(The book) took us around a year to write, but we had a lot of help,” Haidyn said. “Our whole family would come together and we would help each other with how to write the book.”
Though at first unsure they would have a story to share, the girls readily gained their footing, realizing that they had a unique perspective that not many have.
Readers around the world agreed. The book has made it to more than 30 states and five countries, according to a hand-colored map maintained by Hannah and Haidyn that tracks where orders have come from.
“Farm Kids” has even earned praise from former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.
When the young authors sent a copy to Washington, D.C. with a handwritten letter, little did they expect a personalized video response from the secretary himself, thanking them for writing the book.
“I am so impressed at all the different stories and experiences that you girls have with your mom and dad on the farm, herding those cattle, riding those horses,” Perdue said in the video.
Receiving that recognition was “amazing,” the sisters agreed.
“Farm Kids” is also making waves locally, courtesy of the Cochise County Library District Eat Local project, which has acquired several copies of the book for county libraries. Eat Local’s mission is to expose people of all ages to the advantages of eating local food, according to project manager Karen Fasimpaur.
“A lot of kids don’t necessarily know where their food comes from. This book is such a good fit because it tells a story that kids can really relate to: it’s right in our area, not somewhere far away,” she said.
When asked what’s next, Hannah and Haidyn said the sky’s the limit. Their schedules are packed between helping out at the farm on weekends, making progress on their homeschool studies, visiting local schools to talk about “Farm Kids” and, for Hannah, getting started on an egg business of her very own.
“(The writing process) was hard, but we can do hard things,” Haidyn said.
“Everyone can do everything they put their mind to,” Hannah added.
Signed copies of “Farm Kids: A Year in Our Lives at WhiteBarn” are available for purchase at https://whitebarnhayandcattle.com/.
You can also find copies to check out from the Cochise County Portal, Elfrida and Sunsites libraries.