Standing up for ranchers one book at a time
LETCHER — Having devoted her entire life to cattle ranching, Amanda Radke is hoping to address a stigma surrounding the beef industry with her new book.
Wrapping up her second children's book, "Can-Do Cow Kids" last week, which was published on Monday, the 31-year-old mother of three is using her writing abilities to speak to youth about the positive side of cattle ranching.
"When I was starting to read to my kids, I was noticing there were not many agricultural fact-based children's books," Radke said. "The cow was usually the main character, who would talk and have feelings in a lot of the books, while the cattle rancher was the bad guy."
Growing up on her family's Letcher cattle farm north of Mitchell, Radke knows from experience just what goes into managing a ranch.
When she's not busy raising her three children — Scarlett, Thorne and Croix — and tending to the cattle ranch she and husband Tyler operate, Radke is advocating for the people she represents.
"I wanted to highlight that ranchers are the caretakers, and how they're vital in managing animals, land, along with providing habitat for wildlife," Radke said. "So, the heroes in my two books are the ranchers that get the food on the table."
As the mother of a ranching family, an idea sparked right there, prompting Radke's decision to use her own family as the main characters in the book.
Radke said that led to the artist and illustrator of the book wanting to draw and paint real-life photographs of her family for each scene. As she flipped through a fresh hard copy of the book this week, colorful, cartoon-like pictures of the Radkes fill the pages of the book.
"One of my kid's favorite things to do is jump in the mud puddles of our driveway, and we incorporated that scene in the book," she said of her 2-year-old son Thorne.
As a freelance writer for Beef Magazine, a national publication that features agriculture news, Radke has been using her writing abilities to advocate for the beef industry since graduating with an agriculture communications degree from South Dakota State University in 2009.
Though Radke's childhood growing up on a cattle ranch has shaped her professional journey, she is motivated by educating people about the beef industry.
"People are blaming cows on everything from obesity to climate change, and I think it's a misconception that is being ramped up through political rhetoric," Radke said, citing Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal proposal.
Radke pointed to a specific event that she feels is largely responsible for creating a negative connotation in the beef industry, which has been getting fueled with rhetoric coming down from politicians.
"When the U.S. Government changed the dietary guidelines in the 1970s, meat, dairy and eggs were deemed to be less nutritional, which caused a negative connotation," Radke said. "Since then, we've seen a decrease in the consumption of these products, while seeing more diabetes and cancer diagnoses."
In response to the ongoing attacks on the beef industry, Radke speaks at schools and events around the nation about some of the misleading information surrounding the cattle industry.
Having been selected as the 2006 Future Farmers of America National Beef Ambassador during her senior year at Mitchell High School, Radke is no stranger to speaking to crowds of all ages.
"As a cattle ranchers, we have to stand up for the hard work we do every day," she said.
Radke has upcoming events throughout the month of March, which will feature presentations of her book at 9 a.m. on March 14 at Sanborn Central High School, 10 a.m. on March 23 at Elixir Roasterie and 3-5 p.m. on April 30 at Little Red Hen in Mitchell.
While Radke said she's been blessed on her agriculture journey, she credits her family for their support above everything else.
"They are my everything, and without them, none of this is possible," Radke said.