Farmers in scheme to share expertise

SUE O'DOWD
Last updated 07:56 15/11/2012

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A new scheme that will help dairy farmers share knowledge one-to- one is being launched in Taranaki.

DairyNZ's Dairy Connect, run as a pilot scheme in Waikato this year, is now being extended to other regions.

The scheme had huge benefits for farmers and was a good illustration of the co-operative nature of the dairy industry, DairyNZ Taranaki regional leader Katrina Knowles said.

It would allow a farmer investigating a project to tap into the expertise and experience of another to find out about the likely pitfalls and benefits.

Some farmers were shy about participating in discussion groups and preferred a one-to-one transfer of knowledge.

She said the scheme would work well for farmers new to an area who wanted to learn about local conditions and local businesses.

Often farmers did not want advice from a technical expert.

"They just want to talk to someone who's done what they're trying to do."

Co-ordinating the scheme in Taranaki is Cynthia Northcote who surveyed 350 farmers earlier this year to identify their priorities for managing their farms and their preferred methods of communication.

"The need to discuss issues with another farmer came out strongly," she said.

"One of the findings was that there is a lot of people with experience and expertise who are willing to share their knowledge. And there's also a lot of people who want to know where to go for information.

"As long as people are honest, it will work well."

Working through her database, she is now identifying information that farmers are willing to share and matching it to those seeking it.

"It's quite specific - identifying who wants to know what and connecting them to someone with that knowledge."

Often farmers might just need a pathway identified for them or to be pointed towards DairyNZ programmes like Biz Start, Biz Grow or Pasture Plus. A wealth of information and resources was available, but farmers often did not know where to find it.

She said farmers often worked in isolation and Dairy Connect would identify farmers willing to share ideas informally with others. They were keen to share their time and expertise with others and those wanting information just had to be open about their needs.

Once she matched farmers up, it was up to them to make contact and to decide how they would manage the process. Often, one phone call might be all that was required.

She did not expect farmers willing to help would have to make a huge commitment of time. "It's just a chance to share their expertise and their skills. And young people need mentors."

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She said the connection did not have to be made at a local level. With the scheme running in many regions, connections could be made between farmers in many parts of the country.

Farmers wanting to find out more can check online at dairynz.co.nz/dairyconnect

- Taranaki Daily News

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