THE COMPLETE PACKAGE
ANNABELLE CAMERON INTERVIEWS GEORGE THE FARMER
As a former primary school teacher, I would spend hours compiling units of work for my students in the hope that they would become engaged in the content. This task was often made difficult by the fact that teacher and/or student resources in certain subjects were quite limited. In the case of introducing agricultural concepts to my students, I had very few resources to draw from. I only had access to basic class texts which featured attractive pictures, but rather rudimentary explanations to correspond with them.
I’ve not taught for quite some time now, but if I were to return to the classroom I would certainly invest in class sets of ‘George the Farmer Book Collection’ as it’s the complete package when it comes to raising awareness of where our food and fibre comes from. The book collection comprises of stories about growing a wheat crop, shearing a sheep, milking cows, runaway bees and learning how to count things on the farm. Along with the ‘George the Farmer Book Collection’ there is an array of other mediums that engage students such as songs, toys, Apps, performance and activities. The 'George the Farmer’ brand also provides for teachers in the form of teacher’s guides and a blog. Not only is the ‘George the Farmer’ series benefiting students and teachers within the classroom, but the profits from sales go into the creation of free curriculum-aligned resources which aim to educate children about primary production.
I caught up with one of the ‘George The Farmer’ Co-Founders, Simone Kain, to learn about the story behind the creation of this wonderful resource.
Annabelle: How did the George the Farm concept come about?
Simone: I was lying on my bed with my son, George, who was two and a half years old at the time, with a massive pregnant belly full of my twin boys, and I was trying to find some fun farming apps or books to keep George entertained for when his brothers arrived. He was obsessed with the farm and loved to help my husband, Justin, whenever he could or look at farm machinery magazines.
The only products that I could find were American or English and used different terminology such as ‘fall’ instead of ‘autumn’ or ‘field’ instead of ‘paddock’. There also wasn’t one character globally who was telling sequential stories about life on the land. There was the old man in overalls that would collect eggs and milk a cow by hand, but there’s so much more to agriculture! It dawned on me that there was a great opportunity to start telling stories about Australian agriculture to inspire little farm kids, just like my George. Ben and I also have a creative agency called ‘Hello Friday’. Through ‘Hello Friday’ we create branding, websites, apps, videos and print work mainly for organisations associated with primary industries or education. So we had all of the skills we needed to produce this inspirational character in-house.
Annabelle: What’s your current role in the brand?
Simone: I’m the author of the ‘George the Farmer’ books and I also do all of the marketing, sales, lead generation, event coordination and perform at our events. I’ll do the odd bit of social media as well.
Annabelle: At what point did this venture expand, in terms of supply, demand and distribution?
Simone: We launched ‘George the Farmer’ as an interactive story app mid 2014, thinking that apps were the way of the future and basically that was all George would be. Not long after we launched the app we had requests for physical picture books. We now have four stories — one about wheat production; one about shearing and wool production; a robotic dairy story and; our latest about honey bees. We also have a 1-10 baby board book, videos of George out on the farm available on YouTube; George and Ruby cuddle dolls, free curriculum-aligned teacher’s guides; clothing and music. This all then led to our stage shows of which we tour all over the country singing and dancing with the real ‘George the Farmer’!
It’s happened reasonably quickly - but it’s really just grown organically from what our fans have asked for which has been nice. We generally pick up stockists within the towns/cities that we visit and have close to 50 nationally at present (we’re always on the hunt for more!) and our products can also be purchase through our website.
Annabelle: I’ve also noticed that you have received numerous awards for your brand. Can you please tell me about these acknowledgements?
Simone: We’ve been really fortunate to have received the acknowledgements that we have. There’s a few women’s awards that I have been awarded personally, but it is definitely a team effort, and if it weren’t for Ben’s contribution we wouldn’t be where we are today. Awards have included: 2018 Telstra Business Awards (social change) Finalist; 2017 Agrifutures Rural Women's Award National Runner-up; 2016 Google Australia Regional Online Hero Finalist; 2015 NAB Women’s Agenda Regional Entrepreneur of the Year and the 2015 Brand SA Flinders University Education Award. Being recognised through awards and nominations has attributed to building the reach of the brand on a national level.
Annabelle: Along with the ‘George the Farmer’ brand you also run a busy household complete with three sons and a beautiful red Kelpie called Turbo. As a busy working mother myself, I am wondering how you manage all these aspects in your life?
Simone: Well Annabelle, the work and life balance has definitely been a little out of whack this year to say the least! I’ve been travelling a lot not just with ‘George the Farmer’ but with speaking engagements and board commitments. I also sit on the board of Australian Women in Agriculture, Regional Development Australia (Limestone Coast) and sit on the Ignite Advisory Panel for Agrifutures Australia. Although it’s busy, I really enjoy it. I definitely wouldn’t be able to do what I have been doing if it weren’t for my husband Justin who is very hands-on with the boys and a great support. As for Turbo, unfortunately we lost her last year - she disappeared one afternoon on the farm and has not been sighted since, we think it might have been a snake bite. We’ve adopted a new dog recently though called Barney, he’s a beautiful red border collie.
Annabelle: What are your hopes and dreams for the George the Farmer brand?
Simone: Children don’t know where their food comes from globally and George and Ruby can play a major role in changing that. In fact, in Australia, survey results revealed that 45% of year six students didn’t identify that every day lunch box items such as a piece of bread, banana or piece of cheese as originate from a farm and almost one third thought yoghurt came from a plant. These statistics are very similar globally. We’re a social enterprise and reinvest 50c from the sale of each of our picture books into working with educational consultants to create free curriculum-aligned resources to help teach kids about where their food and fibre comes from while also learning about science, english, maths, art, etc.
In the past six months, we’ve had over 3000 downloads of our free resources which has attributed to the education of 40,000 children nationally about agriculture. We want this number to continue to really grow with the help of everyone who is passionate about agriculture spreading the word about George and Ruby! We also aspire for ‘George the Farmer’ to be a global brand. Imagine if when children or adults across the globe think about clean, green, healthy farm produce, they think about Australia — the amazing land that George and Ruby farmer come from. Not only would it be great for exports, it would be amazing for tourism. And that’s why we’re currently working on a George the Farmer animated television series. We want George and Ruby to be the next big hit from Australia! This year, we’re thrilled to have launched ‘George the Farmer’ on ABC Iview and ABC Me! You can watch our current series (featuring the real George) on ABC ME, ABC IView or follow our YouTube channel for more content as it’s released!
Annabelle: It was an absolute pleasure to talk with you Simone, I wish you all the best with ‘George The Farmer’ into the future.
Simone: Thank you, Annabelle. I really appreciate your support and would like to encourage anyone who is passionate about Australian agriculture to join in our crusade of educating kids about agriculture by helping to spread the word about George the Farmer. Feel free to follow us on Facebook, Instagram or our website!