Investing in farmers of the future

Taking a break from learning to shear and crutch sheep on a raised shearing board on Birchwood...
Taking a break from learning to shear and crutch sheep on a raised shearing board on Birchwood Station in Western Southland are (from left) Catriona Hill (18), of Whangarei, Sarah Andrews (18), of Winton, Taurus-Peyton Harden (18), of Gore, Ruald Raath (17), of Edendale and Zane Flawn (17), of Invercargill. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
A charitable trust is calling for farmers to help train the next generation of shepherds in the South.

Growing Future Farmers Southland liaison manager Amy Priest, of Lumsden, said the group launched in Southland last year.

The first two students who started the two-year course in the South were on track to graduate at the end of this year.

Of the 80 students doing the programme on farms across New Zealand this year, 10% of them have placements on farms in the South and liaise with Mrs Priest.

"It’s cool to be a part of."

An open day to showcase the programme would be held on Wakefield Farm in Dipton between 10am and 2pm on August 9.

Everyone was invited to the open day including potential students, trainers of rural skills and southern farmers interested in having a student on their farm.

Shearing trainer Chas Tohiariki demonstrates to Growing Future Farmers Southland students and...
Shearing trainer Chas Tohiariki demonstrates to Growing Future Farmers Southland students and local shepherds how to shear a sheep at Birchwood Station in Western Southland.
Many farmers were interested in taking on student but the biggest challenge for some owners of smaller farms was a lack of accommodation to house the students.

A criteria to take on a student was to provide them accommodation and supply electricity, internet, farm meat and firewood.

Farmers paid the charitable trust $180 a week, which was passed on to the students.

Each student was also given two vaccinated and registered puppies — a heading dog and a huntaway — and food to feed them.

The students train their dogs at fortnightly workshops and keep them after graduating.

The charitable trust was launched by sheep and beef farmers Dan and Tam Jess-Blake near Gisborne about three years ago, in response to their struggle to recruit a shepherd.

For the programme, school leavers from across New Zealand could apply for placements to live and work on sheep, beef and deer farms in a district of their choice.

"They live and breathe it as part of a team and after two years they should be work-ready to be a junior shepherd on a farm," Mrs Priest said.

One of the students had a placement on a farm in Lauder in the Maniototo and the rest were on farms in Southland including Mt Linton Station in Ohai, Wairaki Station in Otautau and Glengordon Farm in Longridge.

Many of the students were "city slickers" and had no prior farming experience.

"They are thriving and loving it."

The students attend group training days, such as workshops on how to operate a tractor, chainsaw and a welding machine.

Students learned how to shear and crutch a sheep at a training day at Birchwood Station in Western Southland last month.

Growing Future Farmers Southland student Zane  Flawn, 
Growing Future Farmers Southland student Zane Flawn, of Invercargill, learns to shear a sheep. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
On the Eastern Institute Of Technology programme, students gain national certificates in primary industries qualifications.

The students train on-farm for 44 weeks of the year and have holidays similar to other tertiary institutes, and are eligible to apply for loan and allowances.

Students helped farmers with duties on farm and after some of them had proven themselves to be capable were being paid extra to complete duties outside of course requirements, such as moving temporary fencing on weekends.

Mrs Priest said she was approaching high schools in the South to find out if she could talk to pupils about the opportunities presented by the programme.

The plan was to increase the presence of the programme in Southland and Otago.

"We are looking to grow by up to 10 students every year, as long as we can find the farms that are willing to take them on," she said.



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