Katie Pratt had low expectations for her farm blog debut.
“My first post was about 4-H. I was thinking maybe my mother would read it,” she said.
Many, many more people did. Pratt — whose online moniker is Illinois Farm Girl — has gained tens of thousands of readers. Quite an accomplishment for a small-town farm denizen from rural northern Illinois.
“I’ve always liked to write,” said Pratt, who lives with her husband, Andy, and two children near Dixon, Illinois. “Early on in the whole movement of telling the farm story, people were saying, ‘You should do a blog.’”
The Pratts grow corn, soybeans and seed corn. They also keep a “couple of heifers” for showing. The daily adventures of farm family life provide plenty of fodder for blog posts.
“It’s an extension of your farm, really. It’s your PR campaign,” Pratt said. “My posts are mainly about family, my faith and my involvement in 4-H and FFA.”
Her website occasionally becomes a platform for airing more serious conversations. A few years ago, Pratt felt compelled to respond to claims television personality Dr. Oz made about the dangers of genetically modified crops.
“I went through and debunked everything that was said by his experts,” Pratt said. “It was initially seen by upwards of 60,000 to 70,000 people.”
In 2014 Dr. Oz did a show about pesticide drift. She also countered those arguments in a blog. Both are at the top of her most-popular entries.
But the bread and butter remains the family. She writes often about her husband and two children — Ethan and Natalie, ages 11 and 13 — whom she has dubbed the Farm Boy and Farm Princess. She expects Ethan to follow his father’s footsteps.
“He came from the womb farming,” Pratt said. “My daughter has big dreams. Maybe someday she’ll come back to the farm.”
A benefit she didn’t anticipate when she started is the support of other farm bloggers, many of whom she has gotten to know.
“There are some who I consider really great friends,” she said. “Our friendships have grown beyond just the tips and tricks about farming. We also share frustrations and achievements, being parents, things like that.”
One popular theme is the ongoing adventures of Flat Aggie, a paper cutout character created by a fellow blogger in Kansas. It is based on the children’s book “Flat Stanley,” about a normal kid who is flattened when a bulletin board falls on him. His classmates place him in envelopes and send him all over the world.
Pratt is one of many bloggers perpetuating the Flat Aggie narrative.
“She visits farms all over the United States and sends reports back to us,” Pratt said. “It’s really fun to do. We email her to our farmer hosts. They print her out and take pictures of Flat Aggie around the farm.”
One of her own projects involves popcorn.
“The kids started growing popcorn several years ago,” Pratt said. “A lot of moms reached out, and their kids are now growing popcorn and selling it at farmers markets.”
While the content and basic gist of Pratt’s blogs has not changed, the delivery method has. She still maintains her website, but admits she doesn’t post as often as in the past.
“I share more on my blog site of Facebook than I do on my actual website blog,” she said. “I find that there seem to be better engagements with short posts. Videos, photos and things seem to be connecting with people. It’s all evolving.”