Greener pastures for school farm

Last updated 05:00 18/06/2014
Northland College farm

SUCCESS: Tertiary Education and Employment Minister Steven Joyce and Northland MP Mike Sabin are joined by Northland College agriculture at Northland College’s inaugural Farm Open Day. The college is planning annual open days on what has again become a show piece for the school.

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A new-look Northland College Farm is set to turn its first profit in five years.

The farm has been run on the site for over a decade but struggled to perform before a commissioner was appointed to help address poor fiscal management in 2012.

Its fortunes were reversed when the school partnered up with Lincoln University to breathe fresh life into the project last September.

Now the relationship is starting to pay dividends.

College principal Jim Luders says production is up by 75 per cent and the farm is on track to help regenerate Kaikohe's economy.

The school roll is 90 per cent Maori and Luders says Ngapuhi elders have worked closely on the project, seeing it as an effective way to produce a new generation of community leaders.

"Ngapuhi are going to have a lot of farms here. And they want Ngapuhi running them," he says.

More than half of the school's students have chosen to learn agriculture and there are 37 pupils training on the farm this year. Luders says governance changes will also make a difference to financial performance.

He says the school once dipped into farm funds when it needed money but a new trust is being established to separate the accounts and stop the practice taking place.

Farm chairman Murray Jamieson works for Lincoln University and the Ministry of Primary Industries and says things are going "extremely well".

He says the farm presents an opportunity for students and all Northlanders associated with primary industries.

"It's going to be a complete open book, there are going to be no secrets," Jamieson says. "We don't want to just educate students, our goal is also to help educate the farmers of Northland."

Public pasture walks are being held on Wednesdays to showcase the best methods the farm has used to turn its fortunes around.

It's about getting the basics right, Jamieson says.

"Everything has been around best practice," he says. "It was simple stuff - we were just trying to do the basics right to the best of our ability every week."

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