Penola stars in new children’s book

FARM TO FORK: The ninth George the Farmer title Vegetable Orchestra, created by Simone Kain and Ben Hood, stars Penola's Petticoat Lane Vegetable and Herb Garden and garden founder Kate Spencer (centre). Picture: RAQUEL MUSTILLO

By Molly Taylor

AN ORCHESTRA using vegetables as instruments sparked the inspiration for the latest George the Farmer children’s book, the brainchild of two Limestone Coast creatives. 

Simone Kain and Ben Hood have released their ninth George the Farmer title – Vegetable Orchestra – which includes Penola’s Petticoat Lane Herb and Vegetable Garden and stars icon Kate Spencer. 

The book follows character Jack who discovers a collection of crooked carrots at the garden, triggering a musical concept for George and Ruby which promotes homegrown produce, the Penola township and fostering musical talent.

Ms Kain, a Penola resident, said the book’s concept stemmed from a news article about an Austrian orchestra, which plays instruments made out of vegetables.

“With the lockdown this year, a lot of families have established their own vegetable gardens,” Ms Kain said.

“I thought this story would be relatable to a lot of children – the secondary storyline of an unusual musical performance makes it a bit of fun,” she said.

“My son Louis and I volunteer at the garden where we have gotten to know Kate. It’s been so nice to pay tribute to her amazing effort at the garden by writing her into the storyline.”

“We’ve also included a mention of the Penola Acoustic Music Festival, which kicks off next year in March.”

Ms Kain said she thought it was important for children to understand how vegetables were grown and where food came from. 

“The book focuses on carrots and fennel, the important role that worms play in the soil and the best way to help vegetables grow, while also promoting how volunteering can be fun,” she said.

 Petticoat Lane, which is maintained by the National Trust SA Penola branch, is a tourist attraction for the community, featuring numerous 19th century cottages and historical links. 

“A reference has been included in the book that the garden is a real-life place located in Penola. Our books are sold right across Australia as well as internationally – highlighting some of our local treasures could potentially drum up visitation with Penola being the home of George the Farmer,” Ms Kain said.

The 32-page publication is available for purchase online and is printed in South Australia on paper from well-managed forests, using environmentally-friendly vegetable ink. 

A portion of profits from book sales is used to create freely available curriculum-aligned educational resources for classroom use.