By Jen Barwick
It’s been a busy 18 months since George the Farmer made his digital debut as a children’s interactive story app, but with new books, CDs and a new job with Landcare, he’s only just getting started.
George’s creators Simone Kain and Ben Hood have enjoyed watching George flourish. He’s amassed some 14,000 followers on Facebook and thousands of downloads via the iTunes store – and it’s been included in the national curriculum as a voluntary education resource.
Mother of three boys, George (5) and twin boys Louis and Frank (3), Simone says her boys think she works for George the Farmer.
“They think George is my boss,” Simone says, with a laugh. It’s no wonder George seems so real to the Kain family, he’s a mixture of their dad in looks, has a familiar moniker and his life story (he’s a dad of twins too, Lucy and Jack) and adventures are inspired by nearby friends and family, farming in the Coonawarra and Limestone Coast.
George was born when Simone went in search of Australian-themed farming stories, books, games or digital apps for her young boys – and found the market greatly wanting.
As owners of a creative agency, based in Penola and Mt Gambier, Simone with business partner Ben as illustrator decided to fill the gap themselves, with George the Farmer.
“The response has definitely surpassed our initial expectations… we wanted it to be successful but I don’t think we expected how quickly it’s all grown,” Simone said.
“The primary reason for George was to help show kids where their food and fibre comes from, but I guess it’s also become inspirational. Our main followers at the moment are regional and rural kids, who really connect with George’s story and friends.
“I don’t think we realised just how important that role was, but it’s lovely to see.
“We also want to make sure it stays fun and light. That includes a bit of humour that the adults can appreciate too. We definitely never intended it to be too serious or lecture like.”
George has also now leapt from the virtual world into the ‘real’ world; there’s two George the Farmer books, his own CD (sung by Ben), and a new George doll. George even has a real job, as an Ambassador for the Landcare ‘Farm to Fork’ Program, taking lessons about food origin into the city.
There is also a new George the Farmer gaming app (for both iTunes and Android) with games that will allow kids to virtually milk a cow, make butter, steer the wheat harvester, make some bread and even help fatten a steer.
George will also be entering the classroom on a more formal basis.
“We’ve had a curriculum writer help develop our own education units – that cover the books and CDs. It will then be available as a free education resource to teachers, with activities that cover sustainability, technology, science and English.”
In the meantime, George will continue to share his and his friends’ farming stories – with the next app story likely to feature some of his nearby dairy mates.
Watch Ben Hood speak at the 2016 Regional Summit