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Peterson writes farm-themed children’s book

Peterson writes farm-themed children’s book

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WAVERLY – Hundreds of people followed Paula Peterson as she monitored a stalk of corn growing on her farm through her Facebook page.

Now, Peterson’s fans will be able to follow her exploits on the farm all year long, in her new children’s book, “A Year on the Farm.”

The book was recently published by RoseDog Books of Pittsburgh, a division of Dorrance Publishing.

“A Year on the Farm” shows readers what goes on at the rural Waverly farm where Peterson and her husband, Tom, have been raising corn, soybeans, cattle, kids and now grandkids for 35 years.

“It takes you through everything that goes on in the farm,” Peterson said during a recent phone interview.

The book came out first in digital form through various platforms, including Kindle and Amazon. Now the hard copy version is also available for purchase.

Seeing her book on a website for a major online retailer brought everything home for Peterson.

“I was really, really excited when it showed up on Amazon,” she said.

Peterson had originally published a handful of copies of the book on the Snapfish Photo app. After she applied for the copyright through the Library of Congress, a publisher contacted her.

“Dorrance reached out to me,” she said.

Peterson was familiar with Dorrance Publishing. When her daughter, Erica (now Erica Siemek) was in FFA as a student at Waverly High School she wrote a book for her FFA ag education proficiency award that was published by Dorrance.

Each page talks about one month on the farm. Some of the months were pretty easy, like the months when they planted their crops, or during harvest. Then during the winter months it was a little more difficult to find action on the farm.

The photos that illustrate the book and grace the cover were taken by Peterson as she went about her daily chores. She compiled a large supply of photos over the past few years.

Peterson also included fun facts about agriculture sprinkled throughout the book. For example, the book tells readers that an acre of wheat can produce more than 1,500 loaves of bread, and adult cows can drink 12 to 14 gallons of water a day during the colder months.

The agricultural facts come from Peterson’s work with the statewide Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom program. A Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation program, Agriculture in the Classroom matches teachers and farmers as pen pals, Peterson explained.

Peterson got started with Agriculture in the Classroom when Erica was in eighth grade, which was about 15 years ago. Over the years, she said writing letters got boring, so she started adding videos and creating her own picture books using Snapfish or similar applications.

She would make books tailored for the classrooms she was matched with.

“They like something personal,” Peterson said.

She has worked with kindergarten through fifth grade classrooms in Ceresco, Prague, Columbus, Omaha and Lincoln. This year, she has been paired with Holmes Elementary School in Lincoln.

Until the COVID-19 pandemic, Peterson would bring calves or lambs to the classroom to show the students what these animals look like. But the pandemic has kept her out of the classrooms for over a year.

Instead, she reads books over Zoom or does other virtual activities with her students. But she’s eager to see the kids in person as soon as the Lancaster County mask mandate and other health measures are lifted.

“I’m ready to go into the classroom,” she said.

Peterson also educates all ages through her Facebook page, “Farmer Paula a Farm,” which has more than 600 followers, including 15 classrooms across the country. This summer she showed her followers how quickly a corn stalk grew with regular updates on her page.

The Lancaster County Farm Bureau is purchasing several copies of Peterson’s new book to put in classrooms. She is looking forward to having another avenue to reach children as she educates them about agriculture.

“I love working with kids,” she said. “Having that connection with kids always has been really fun for me.”

The book helps children understand where their food comes from.

“It helps show kids that connection I take for granted,” Peterson admitted. “A lot of kids don’t have that chance.”

With this book under her belt, Peterson has plans for another. Although not set in stone, she thinks she will write about her great pyrenees dog, Sampson, and his adventures on the farm. Because it can’t be a Peterson production without a little agriculture education mixed in.

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WAVERLY – The Waverly Board of Education will hold a recall election in January after petitioners received the 88 signatures needed to force a vote to remove school board president Andy Grosshans from his position. 

The recall bid was filed by Rebecca Kellner-Ratzlaff following the board’s extension in July of a resolution that gives Waverly Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Cory Worrell the authority to make decisions on the district’s COVID-19 response without waiting for a scheduled school board meeting or calling a special meeting. 

“In passing this resolution, Mr. Grosshans silences the representation he was elected to uphold by his constituents,” Kellner-Ratzlaff wrote in her request for petitions filed on Sept. 7.

Grosshans’ defense statement included with the petition read: “For 12+ years, I have worked hard to make well-informed decisions to provide the students of District 145 with a safe environment in which to receive an outstanding education. In these difficult times, I hope for continued understanding and patience as we use key resources and area experts to do what’s in the best interest of all students.” 

The resolution was developed and approved at the start of the pandemic in April 2020, and the school board voted on July 5 to extend the resolution for the duration of the 2021-22 school year. 

Grosshans said the school’s attorney, Justin Knight, estimated that 90% of Nebraska school districts adopted similar resolutions in the 2020-21 school year, and approximately 40% readopted the resolutions for the current school year. Knight told Grosshans that many school districts felt like the worst of the pandemic had passed and that they could “let their guard down” for 2021-22.

“We didn’t feel that things were over yet and that we could afford to do that,” Grosshans said. “We felt it was important that Dr. Worrell had the ability to make quick decisions. These things with COVID can happen very, very rapidly, and if we have to rely on calling a meeting where it’s days out, then sometimes we’re losing valuable time.” 

The risk of COVID-19 transmission in Lancaster County is still high, according to the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department’s risk dial.

In August, Worrell exercised his authority granted by the resolution, choosing to follow a recommendation from the LLCHD that children under the age of 12 wear masks in school. Masks are currently required for all pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students in District 145.

On Sept. 6, District 145 parents attended the school board’s regularly scheduled meeting to voice their concerns over the decision to require masks in school. One parent, Angie Stara, co-founded a Facebook group called “Unmask Our Dist. 145 Kids,” and wrote in an email to The Waverly News after the meeting explaining that the group’s goal was “to get the school board members to take back the power they gave to the superintendent, back in July, to make all COVID-related decisions solely by himself.”  

The next day, Kellner-Ratzlaff filed for the petition to recall Grosshans. She was part of the “Unmask Our Dist. 145 Kids” group and in August had been active in petitioning against the school board’s initial decision to require masks for the 2021-22 school year. Kellner-Ratzlaff could not be reached for comment. 

Grosshans said he understands why citizens are frustrated, but he said the district’s COVID-19 response has been geared toward ensuring students receive an in-person education.

“I’m like everybody, I don’t like wearing a mask any more than anybody else does,” Grosshans said. “But I have a responsibility to the students and staff of this district to do everything we can to keep people safe and healthy while also providing the best option for quality education.”

Grosshans was a write-in candidate for the Waverly school board Ward 4 seat in the 2020 election. He had previously served on the school board since 2008 but hadn’t planned to run for the seat in 2020. No other candidates filed to run by the March 2, 2020 deadline, and the pandemic made its first impact locally that month.

“I thought, well, I’ll go ahead and try to serve another term to help get through this really difficult time,” Grosshans said. “By that point, I had to run as a write-in candidate, and by its very nature, that’s going to attract a lot fewer votes.” 

He won the election with 101 votes out of 249 total. For a recall petition to be sufficient under state statute 32-1303 (1), it must receive signatures totaling at least 35% of the number of votes cast in the general election. Rounded up, 35% of 249 works out to 88. 

Now, the nearly 1,400 voters in Ward 4 will receive mail-in ballots that read: “Shall Andy Grosshans be removed from the office of the Board of Education of Lancaster County School District 55-145, a/k/a Waverly School District 145?” Voters will then check “Yes” or “No.” Ballots must be returned to the Lancaster County Election Commission by 5 p.m. on Jan. 11.

Sam Crisler is a reporter for The Waverly News. Reach him via email at sam.crisler@wahoonewspaper.com.

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