Melbourne may be home for Bianca Linklater now, but her heart belongs to the plains surrounding Gol Gol, the small rural town on the Murray River where she grew up. The primary school teacher and Practicing MSL Educational Specialist is one of five children who watched the toil and perseverance her parents showed as broad acre farmers – and is now passing that love onto her three children through George the Farmer.
“My family have always been involved in broad acre grain farming, with my three brothers and my dad farming Trentham Cliffs Station and Wild Dog Station near Gol Gol,” Bianca says. “Over the past 15 years, they’ve placed greater emphasis on rebuilding the nutritional integrity and quality of the soil and reducing the use of chemicals through crop rotation.”
This focus on innovation and contemporary farming practices is something she relishes when reading about the adventures of George the Farmer with her three children, Edison (7), Aurelia (5) and Vienna (2). Bianca and husband, Simon are passionate about ingraining a thirst for agriculture in the next generation.
“Farming in Australia is not generally framed within the pages of a Golden Book book with a quaint pond, daffodils, three red hens and a donkey. It’s large scale and it’s world class,” the educational specialist says. “I believe Australian farmers need to be recognised for their contribution to the Australian economy and lifestyle. Farmers are the back story to every single Australian family’s meals, grocery shop, cafe brunch, celebration, or dinner out.”
Bianca stumbled upon the George the Farmer books in 2019 when looking for stories about farming in Australia for Edison – who adores the farm and going to work with his Pa.
“I found out about George the Farmer via google and it’s been a love story ever since! We now have the entire collection of George the Farmer books and whilst Edison idolises George, the girls love Ruby and are hoping she might even show up on a George the Farmer TV episode some time,” Bianca says. “Edison’s favourite book is Harvest Hiccup - he lives for harvest time and unfortunately due to lockdown we couldn’t go up to the farm last year. We’re keeping our fingers crossed we’ll be allowed in to regional Victoria soon and we can take Edison up for a short harvest run.”
For Bianca, the true brilliance of George the Farmer is that it makes farming not only relatable to children across Australia, but raises the profile of the ag industry while highlighting its many sophisticated and technical elements.
“I love how the books also highlight the strengths and values of good character - integrity, perseverance, team work, risk-taking, empathy, bravery, foresight, kindness, cooperation, purpose and a sense of community,” she says. “I also love the way Ruby’s character embodies and celebrates the many successful and highly qualified women in the farming industry.”
As a teacher, Bianca is especially passionate about passing on an appreciation for the nuance of the agricultural industry.
“Farming is often overly simplified by the ‘gumboots and scarecrow’ narrative,” she says. “It’s a science as much as it is a lifestyle; an enterprise as much as it is a commodity; it is an all-consuming pursuit that requires eternal optimism and gritty determination - but with this, is brimming with ingenuity and engenders the necessity for innovation, technology, and engineering.”
And when it comes to the Australian curriculum, Bianca has strong feelings about George’s educational scope.
“I’ve shared George the Farmer with my teaching colleagues and am encouraging them to access the brilliant teaching and learning resources to complement their health inquiry units this term,” she continues. “There is so much scope and potential for George the Farmer to bring farming into the lives of children Australia wide; particularly those who have never experienced an egg outside of a carton, milk outside of a plastic bottle, bacon outside of a burger, or peas outside of a freezer bag.”