Heading back to the land

SIT-Telford GoDairy student Steve Morris. PHOTO: MARY-JO TOHILL
SIT-Telford GoDairy student Steve Morris. PHOTO: MARY-JO TOHILL
A job loss has brought Mosgiel man Steve Morris back to his agricultural roots, and the 55-year-old is glad of it.

He grew up on a farm on the Otago Peninsula, near Larnach Castle.

"It was a small farm, and you don’t always want to work with your father," Mr Morris said.

He left school and became a glazier, holding down his first job for 16 years and the second for 18, before making a complete change and driving trucks for three years.

Then Covid-19 struck and he was made redundant.

‘‘It was terrible, but I’m pleased it happened. It’s opened up a whole lot of opportunities that I would have never taken."

He heard about the Southern Institute of Technology’s short courses, designed to help people go from their pre-pandemic jobs to careers in agriculture, on talkback radio.

He did the agricultural contractor training course at the Telford campus near Balclutha, and then went on to the farm-ready GoDairy course.

The DairyNZ course offers three weeks of free training to learn about life and work on a farm, as well as practical aspects such as animal handling and vehicle safety.

On completion, participants are eligible to receive $900 of PPE gear with proof of employment.

"I lived on campus and I’ve absolutely loved it. Good food, great atmosphere. It really has been a great experience."

Reasonably proficient around machinery because of his previous experience, Mr Morris had already been offered some driving work after the course finished.

His preference would be work or placement in agriculture somewhere close to home on the Taieri Plain, where he has 4ha at Chain Hills.

"But I would consider dairy, and either avenue. We’ll just have to see what turns up."

GoDairy students were not required to be at the 5am and 3pm milking at Telford, but he showed up, determined to learn all he could.

"I’ll say it again, if I hadn’t been made redundant, I would never have considered retraining for anything at this stage of life.

‘‘I’d have just kept going day in and day out, so it just goes to show you, things can work out for the best."

Mary Jo Tohill

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