October 14, 2015

George the Farmer app teaching kids yoghurt doesn’t grow on trees

The realisation that so many Australian school children are completely oblivious about where their food and fibre comes from prompted a South Australian mother to create the George the Famer app.

Australian farmers are an iconic part of this country, and yet despite this, the vast majority of our schoolchildren don’t seem to understand where produce comes from.

It was a major problem that South Australian mother Simone Kain was keen to address. The mother of three young boys went hunting for content that would fuel her first son’s curious mind about the world of farming, which was their life.

“The only digital content I could find for him was either American or English, which used terminology we weren’t used to here to explain life on the farm,” Kain says. “Referring to fields instead of paddocks, or barns instead of a shed. No matter where I looked, there weren’t any characters telling sequential stories about life on the land in Australia.”

Further research revealed the true extent of the problem. A national study conducted by the Australian Council for Educational Research found that 75 per cent of children made up of year 6 and 10 students believed that cotton socks was an animal product, and 27 per cent believed that yoghurt grew on trees.

At the same time, Australian kids and teens were spending far more time online. Connected youths aged 2-15 years are spending an average of 11.5 hours with the internet each week, which has increased three-fold since 2007, according to the Nielsen Australian E-Generation Report 2014. The availability of content for younger audiences, particularly via the use of apps, has contributed to this growing behaviour.

Teaching kids where their food comes from

As the co-owner of a creative agency Hello Friday, Kain knew she had the tools at her disposal to create a character that would help educate her son and other children that weren’t being told. She and her co-director Ben Hood both grew up on farming properties. Hood also happened to be a keen illustrator and was keen to take on this role for the George the Farmer app project.

A slowing local economy in 2012 saw their workload wind back, giving them the time to utilise their skills to create the George the Farmer app, which was tested on Kain’s son and perfected over a few months. Kids can watch George plant a wheat crop, shear a sheep or learn about other core farming practices that help them understand where food and fibre comes from.

Kain based the look of the character on her husband Justin, who is a farmer, and named him after her son. The stories she writes about George the Farmer are also often based on what happens on the mixed farm her husband runs with his brother.

Available for $4.99, the George the Farmer app has been downloaded 2500 times since July last year.

“The key element of the app is for it to be fun while George the Farmer subtly educates children about agriculture,” she says. “I’m passionate about the importance of this message.”

Kain was named the Rural/Regional Entrepreneur of the Year at the annual Australian NAB Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards. The annual awards celebrate the most inspiring and outstanding female talent in business and the community across a range of categories.

George BR&I 2

Taking George to the stage

Kain and Hood say they’re thrilled to be working together to educate the next generation of Australians about vital farming activities such as seeding, shearing, aquaculture, dairy forestry, and more – all to be covered throughout the creative stories to be released as part of the next phase of the George the Farmer project.

The stories subtly highlight the jobs undertaken during the four seasons on an Australian farm. It has been created to appeal to toddlers and young children.

Kain has been working closely with the Primary Industries Education Foundation Australia developing video resources for the national ‘Ag in Education’ project being rolled out through the Australian School Curriculum. She’s also gone one step further in her bid to educate Australian schoolchildren about farming practices, taking a small George the Farmer stage show around the country to places such as Rockhampton, Sydney and Hamilton for schoolchildren which includes fun, original songs and music about farming life.

“We have a life size George the Farmer who dances around on stage while Ben sings,” says Kain. “The kids love him. It’s priceless seeing the looks on their faces.”

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