The future of farming is in safe hands looking at the latest level three primary industries class from EIT Tairāwhiti.
The group of five girls have impressed their tutor and Papatu Station farm manager Jono Torkington, where students get practical experience.
EIT Tairāwhiti primary industries tutor Sam Sidney says he has been teaching agriculture for the past four years and it’s his first all-female student group.
“They have been outstanding – that is my personal view, and I have been involved with farming for 40 years.
“They take everything onboard and give it their all. They might not be as strong as the boys, but they have the right attitude. They rise to the challenges in front of them.”
None of them had farming experience before taking up the one-year course.
Being able to bring the students to Papatu Station, at Manutuke to get practical experience was a real privilege.
“It means they get to deal with real live stuff – not just practicing,” says Sam.
The farm was handy because it was only 15-20 minutes from town.
Papatu Station manager Jono Torkington says one highlight of the relationship with EIT was seeing the students develop.
“They come in and go from never touching anything to do with farming, to everything. These are the next generation of farmers.”
Papatu Station has been involved with helping with agriculture, horticulture and environmental tertiary education for the past six years Jono has been manager.
He says having the relationship with EIT is part of farming succession planning.
“It’s about the future.”
Papatu Station also has a small orchard for horticulture students, and plenty of trees for students to practice chainsaw skills.
There are also activities for environmental students.
“We have had good and bad – this class is definitely one of the better ones.” He says female students generally performed well.
“Every year they outshine the boys. It’s good to see the girls getting in there – Not afraid,” he says while watching them drench some fully grown cattle.
“If something is physically difficult for them, they work out a system.”
For student Leah Williams, a highlight has been being part of the team of girls. “We can do anything,” she says.
Leah grew up on a lifestyle block and attended Gisborne Girls High School, finishing last year.
“I decided to take this course because I had done some work experience and I liked it. I still like it and I am going to do level four next year.”
Dawn Leach, 25, was looking for a new direction and loves the hands-on parts of the course.
“I had a good friend who was working on a farm and it appealed to me. I wanted to learn.” She had returned home from Australia where she was working classing wool. Dawn plans to do level four next year.
Chelsea Nicholas is one of two Wairoa students who travel an hour a day to get to their course. She went to Wairoa College and had worked for a year before taking up study.
“I wanted to try something new that I had not tried before. I wanted to challenge myself. It is a lot of fun and can be physically demanding but I like it,” says Chelsea.
“We are all very grateful we can come to Papatu Station every day as part of our course.”
Latoya Tahuri also travels from Wairoa and the fifth student is Michaela Fleming. (These two were absent the day the photos and interviews for this story were done.)
Sam says the students gain a wide range of skills while completing the NZ Certificate in Agriculture (Farming Systems) and New Zealand Certificate in Primary Industry Operational Skills Level three.
They are run conjointly over a year. The next programme starts in February.
“They come out work-ready.”
One part of the course covers operational skills including machinery (chainsaws), vehicles (quadbikes), infrastructure (fencing) and wellbeing.
The other part of the course looks at farming systems and covers livestock health, livestock handling, biology, soils and plants, safe work and sustainable farming practices.
“These girls have been ticking along really nicely. I am really proud of them,” says Sam.
Anyone interested in the primary industries programme can contact the main office in Palmerston Road or go to the EIT Tairāwhiti website.