A little plastic farmer in a wide-brimmed hat and green overalls is doing his part to promote Australian agriculture.
He is the Lego farmer, measures 4.5cm and becomes a national and even international celebrity as he spreads the message of agriculture in schools and through social media.
The farmer spends his day working hard, repairing machinery, baling hay, checking the crop, planting crops or hanging out with his working dog.
And her “home” is with Little Brick Pastoral, a blog started by agribusiness graduate Aimee Snowden, who lives on her family’s irrigation farm in Tocumwal, south of Riverina, NSW.
Born and raised on the land, Ms. Snowden was keen to share her love of farming and decided to combine it with her passion for photography and her sense of fun.
Like so many adults, the joy of playing with the colorful plastic bricks never really left her, and in September 2014, she decided to experiment with a minifigure, or ‘minifig,’ and her camera.
Ms. Snowden first posed her farmer among a germinating crop, and like the crop, Lego Farmer’s popularity has grown steadily.
“When I first started I thought it would be a little fun,” she said.
“But after a little while, I realized that it had a lot of potential to start a conversation about production and farming in a different way.
Capture new audiences and share the message of agriculture
Ms Snowden said her use of the toy enabled her to reach a wider audience – parents and their children, townspeople who may have grown up in the countryside and people who loved Lego.
She said she first noticed how engaged the children were with the little plastic farmer when she attended a building blocks exhibition in Melbourne.
“We shared the oat story with a touchscreen and found that there was such interest from children, and even adults,” Ms. Snowden said.
Team up to teach
In September, during the Year of the Pulse, Little Brick Pastoral partnered with the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) to create an educational resource.
Ms. Snowden developed 12 farm characters and, together with DPI, produced On the Pulse, a kit with classroom activities designed for school-aged children.
Its goal was to connect students to where their food comes from, teach them about careers in the industry, and increase their agricultural knowledge using minifigs as a storytelling tool.
The initial rollout of 200 kits was very popular and Ms Snowden said that while comments on its success were still to come, she hoped there would be more opportunities to work with schools.
“It was very well received. The kits went quickly and we know there is a strong interest, and DPI would like to continue working with us,” she said.
Ms. Snowden would love to see characters like Lego Farmer highlight the various careers in agriculture – from paddock to fork – in classrooms across the country.
However, each state’s curriculum involves liaison with various educational boards.
“Because my training is not in the field of education, I need to partner with people who can make this contribution,” she explained.
Getting the message across and the love of photography
In the meantime, Ms Snowden continues to use her blog to tell the story of agriculture in Australia.
In addition to raising awareness and offering insight into the life of the Lego farmer, Little Brick Pastoral provides access to up-to-date information on farming in Australia.
It provides industry links to resources designed to help other farmers, students, educators, and representative groups.
But the farmer’s fame isn’t limited to the blog – he has nearly 8,000 followers on Facebook, uses Twitter and shares photos on Instagram where other Lego photographers congregate.
And yes, there’s a Lego farmer as well, although most of her time is spent behind the scenes.
“Women play an important role in all agriculture and, in fact, they make up 43% of the global agricultural workforce,” said Snowden.
She said that quite often, because of the rapport and the perspective, two figures in the frame could “over-complex” the image – and then there were the sudden gusts of wind and other environmental factors.
Ms Snowden and the Lego Farmer are not affiliated with the famous toy maker, but have been involved in the #BuildAustralia campaign.