MADISON - Long before the first tractor, who changed farming forever? A young blacksmith from Vermont named John Deere — that’s who!

Wisconsin native and author Tracy Nelson Mauer's book “John Deere, That’s Who!” educates students about agricultural advancements in technology, efficiency and productivity and has been chosen as the 2018 Wisconsin Ag in the Classroom Book of the Year.

Mauer's 40-page book details the industry-changing contribution of John Deere who invented the steel plow after observing Illinois farmers toiling to turn the soil.

Each year, the Ag in the Classroom program holds an essay contest in conjunction with the book of the year for fourth and fifth grade students throughout the state. This year’s essay contest topic is, “Inventions that have made agriculture great”. Accompanying lessons aligned to state standards and various Wisconsin educational resources are available online for teachers, students and volunteers to use in promoting and preparing essays.

“Technology is something that many students don’t associate with agriculture,” said Darlene Arneson, Wisconsin Ag in the Classroom Coordinator in a news release. “This year’s book and essay contest will give students the opportunity to explore how technology is helping produce food, fuel and fiber and for teachers to incorporate ag into their STEM curriculum.”

Essay submissions must be 100-to-300 words in length and will be judged on content, grammar, spelling and neatness. The essay contest rules, lesson plans and sample classroom activities are located at Essays are due April 2.

Nine district winners will be selected with one being chosen as the state winner in May by the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s Promotion and Education Committee. Each district winner will receive a classroom presentation for their class. The essay contest is sponsored by We Energies and the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Foundation. Last year, more than 2,800 students participated in the contest.

Questions about the book or how to place an order can be directed to

Ag in the Classroom is designed to help students in kindergarten through high school to understand the importance of agriculture. It is coordinated by the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and by a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

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