Rural round-up

July 19, 2016

Tool for easy environment planning – Rebecca Harper:

Onfarm environmental planning has just got easier with the launch of a new cloud-based software programme, AgFirst Landbase.

AgFirst consultant Erica van Reenen developed the programme in conjunction with FarmIQ after being asked time and again whether an online tool to help with land and environment planning existed – it didn’t, until now.

Using van Reenen’s knowledge and FarmIQ’s information technology capability was a perfect match. . .

Greenpeace’s deadly war on science – Bjorn Lomborg:

Is Greenpeace committing a crime against humanity?

A letter from 110 Nobel laureates suggests as much. It urges the environmental group to drop its campaign against genetically modified foods, particularly so-called “Golden Rice,” which could help prevent millions of deaths in the developing world.

Calling GMOs food “Frankenfood” is a brilliant scare-mongering term, heavily promoted by Greenpeace. But it has no basis in reality. . . 

Let’s not leave Silver Fern Farms stranded – Stephen Jacks:

As I take time to consider my vote in the upcoming Silver Fern Farms special general meeting on the 50-50 joint venture with Shanghai Maling, my thoughts are around what the future may look like either way.

What we know is that the challenges facing farmers are large.  The challenges of profitably negotiating our way through the physical, climatic, financial and market vagaries appear to be amplified of late.   I don’t envisage the scale of excellence and adaptation required to survive and thrive to diminish anytime soon.

We have a choice before us: To join with Shanghai Maling or not.  . . 

School paddocks nurture future farmers – Rob Tipa:

Senior pupils of Waitaki Boys’ High School’s primary production course see their future in farming, so attending one of the country’s few schools with its own farm is a definite attraction.

Seven out of 10 senior students who spoke to the NZ Farmer were boarders at Waitaki, mostly from sheep and beef farming families from around Fairlie, Methven, Mayfield, Millers Flat and the West Coast.

Waitaki Boys has a proud history and reputation as a fine school but several students said the school farm was a key factor that brought them to boarding school in Oamaru. . .

How we are innovating our way to cheaper land prices – James Pethokoukis:

They aren’t making any more land, at least on this planet. But technology is, in effect, increasing the long-term supply of land. Robert Shiller:

This 20th-century miracle in agricultural science greatly improved crop yields per acre. From the standpoint of farm output, there was no need for new land. This revolution involved the discovery by Fritz Haber of a cheap process to produce ammonia for fertilizer at the beginning of the century and the discovery of new high-yield strains of wheat by Norman E. Borlaug at midcentury. Both men won Nobel Prizes for their work. These innovations permitted multiplication of yields per acre and very likely saved hundreds of millions of lives from starvation worldwide. . . 

Leading exporter sets benchmark for food safety and brand protection:

New Zealand’s largest vertically-integrated grower, packer and exporter of twenty-five per cent of this country’s apples has taken a bold step to scientifically guarantee the integrity of its produce.

Mr. Apple has signed a three year contract with Dunedin-based Oritain to combat what has become a proliferation of food fraud in the export industry, and safeguard the security of its supply-chain.

Mr. Apple CEO Andrew van Workum says that having his apples 100% traceable from orchard to store is a lynchpin of the Mr. Apple brand, and adds critical value to the relationship it has with growers, suppliers and consumers. . . 

 


Quote of the day

May 19, 2016

Real education should educate us out of self into something far finer; into a selflessness which links us with all humanity.Nancy Astor who was born on this day in 1879.


Quote of the day

May 6, 2016

The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant. Maximilien Robespierre who was born on this day in 1758.


Project Manuka sweeetens life

April 27, 2016

This is a honey of a story:

A group of young Kaikohe men who have never had full-time work have begun planting manuka as part of a pilot project aimed at improving their future and that of their small Northland town.

Project Manuka is a joint venture between Northland College and the government to reboot the moribund local economy.

The school owns 450ha of land, gifted decades ago for educational purposes, and has run it as a dairy farm and forestry block giving students opportunities to learn agricultural skills.

In its latest venture, it has begun replanting some of the land in manuka for honey production.

There is currently fierce competition for manuka as beekeeping takes off as an industry in the north.

Under a scheme backed by several government ministries, 11 long-term unemployed people have been training in forestry skills over eight weeks and preparing scrubby hillsides for planting in the valuable crop.

None of them have held a full-time job before, and none have formal qualifications.

Their tutor, forestry training contractor Jack Johnson, has had them training at the gym, on the hills cutting tracks and in the classroom swotting for Level 2 NCEA forestry papers. And all eleven have passed.

“A Level 2 certificate in anything – that’s a huge achievement for these boys,” said Mr Johnson.

“Passing a drug test was a huge achievement. The challenge I’ve given them now is refraining altogether from drugs. That’s a life change that they need to make – not only for themselves, but for their families.”

It’s a challenge the workers themselves seem happy to meet. . . .

Drug free, legitimately employed, gaining new skills and qualifications – life will be sweeter for these men and their families.

The official leading Project Manuka is Ben Dalton, from the Ministry of Primary Industries, who says the pilot scheme is intended to lead to much bigger things.

The three priorities for the government in its Northland Economic Action Plan were to increase productivity in existing industries, attract new industry and investment to the north and to build a workforce capable of meeting the needs of that industry.

Mr Dalton said there were 86,000 hectares of undeveloped Māori land around Kaikohe and a huge pool of unemployed people who would relish the chance to escape poverty and improve their families’ lives, given the training.

“These are good people,” he said. “They just haven’t had the chances. All of these guys cost the New Zealand taxpayer a lot of money. So if you spend a fraction of that helping them to become employable and also to see a brighter future, then I think it’s a worthwhile investment. ” . . .

It’s far better to invest money in helping people help themselves than keep on investing in misery.

The chairman of Northland College’s board of trustees, Ken Rintoul, dismissed any suggestion that a new generation of young Māori were being trained just to be labourers.

A percentage of all these students will go into management.

“They’ll be earmarked at the end of this course to be crew leaders, or business owners “

Mr Rintoul also chairs the Youth Enterprise Scheme in Northland which aims to get young people into governance.

“Three years in a row now local Māori have won the National Awards, so we must be on the right track,” he said.

Mr Rintoul said the eventual proceeds from the Northland College manuka plantation would go back to the school.

This is an opportunity for people to escape poverty which brings social and economic benefits for them and the country, and the project will eventually provide an income stream for the school.


Rural round-up

April 20, 2016

Farm the secret to school’s success:

Northland College’s agricultural focus is helping to turn the once struggling secondary school into a success story, says the school’s Commissioner, Chris Saunders.

Absenteeism was an issue at the Kaikohe school, but truancy has halved since several initiatives were put in place to help prepare students for careers in agriculture, with Lincoln University contributing to Northland College’s curriculum and the operations of its commercial dairy farm.

“I think a big part of the success we’re seeing now is that we’re using the farm to offer students practical, primary industries-based training,” Mr Saunders says.

The University offers curriculum support that allows students to undertake on-farm courses, which will lead on to Lincoln qualifications.

“The farm is a significant asset for a small secondary school to own, so it’s very helpful to have Lincoln playing an active and supportive role with the management of it.” . . 

Woolly thinking in Norway – Sally Rae:

At first glance, the similarities between a Norwegian clothing company and a Gimmerburn farm might appear remote.

But with both enterprises sharing a strong focus on quality and a passion for wool – along with histories spanning more than a century – there were definite synergies.

Three executives from high-performance wool clothing brand Devold, including chief executive Cathrine Stange, recently visited the Paterson family’s property Armidale in the Maniototo. . . 

Merino key to ‘amazing’ new fabrics – Sally Rae:

‘‘It’s not your grandfather’s merino”.

Addressing a group of farmers in the Paterson family’s woolshed at Gimmerburn, Global Merino founder and chief executive Jose Fernandez outlined his business.

Global Merino is a United States-based technical textile manufacturer

founded by Mr Fernandez in 2007. It sold its first product in 2009. . . 

Dairy professor retires after years in dairy industry – Jill Galloway:

Peter Munro is about to retire after spending most of his working life in the dairy industry.

The professor, Fonterra chair in food materials science at Riddet Institute, started his life on the family’s dairy farm in Northland and has gone on to develop new dairy products for New Zealand.

“What I am proudest of is creating value for the New Zealand dairy farmer.”

Throughout a long career Munro has worked on milk protein manufacturing and its use, whey proteins and other products.

Fonterra often gets stick for exporting commodities, but at least 30 per cent of its products is sold in a specialised form, usually for food ingredients, says Munro. . .

My most valuable stock unit – Jamie Mackay:

A recent conversation with a sheep farming mate of mine about the current plight of the dairy industry resulted in me reflecting positively on the bad old days of sheep farming in the 1980s.
 
My friend was somewhat surprised when I declared, off the top of my head, that even during the lows of Rogernomics we never ran our farm at a loss.  This is in stark contrast to some dairy farmers who this season will run at a $300,000-plus loss per annum.
 
So I went back through some old annual accounts from 30 years ago to check I wasn’t looking back at farming through rose-tinted spectacles. Those annual accounts for the year ended 30 June, 1986 made for very interesting, if somewhat sobering, reading. . . 

How hill country can be profitable and resilient – Doug Edmeades:

It seems that we have lost sight of what a good clover-based pasture looks like and have forgotten the skills to grow and manage it, says Doug Edmeades.

A two-day symposium on hill country was held recently in Rotorua.  It was well attended by 300 farmers, consultants and agricultural scientists. Clearly, there is a thirst for innovation, new technologies and knowledge in this sector. 

The aim of the meeting was explicit: “What does a profitable and resilient future for our hill country farming look like?” And, “What do we, collectively and as individuals, do to achieve this future?” 

The output of the symposium, and hence, one hopes, the answers to these questions, is to be formally captured in a “position paper”. More on that after the paper comes out. . . 

Fertile ground for enhancing farming software:

Farmers are fairly enthusiastic about using the latest digital technologies to run their businesses, but there is still room for improvement in the agricultural software area, preliminary Lincoln University research suggests.

Lincoln student Jamie Evans recently undertook an exploratory study that involved surveying some of Canterbury’s farmers about the types of technologies they used and how well they thought they were being served by the programmes.

“With this study, we wanted to identify any issues farmers might have with their software, but the long-term goal is to carry out further research that will help us find solutions and ultimately improve these digital technologies,” says IT lecturer Shirley Gibbs, one of the project supervisors. . . 

Big sell off begins and big dry continues – Brian Wood:

THE big dump has started and, unless substantial rain falls across the Bathurst region, the panic to sell livestock before winter sets in shows no signs of abating.

An incredible 20,000 cattle have gone under the hammer at the Central Tablelands Livestock Exchange during the past two weeks.

Last week’s sheep sale had a yarding of 20,000 and 19,300 the week before, which also shows how the weather is impacting on the rural community.  . . 


We don’t hem women in here

April 10, 2016

Hemlines are causing a contretemps at  Henderson High School.

. . . Sade Tuttle was rounded up with a group of girls after a uniform inspection at a school assembly, and she says she had no problem with making her school uniform skirt longer until she was told why.

“Basically we were told that the skirts needed to be lowered to below our knees or we would be given detention after school,” she says.

When I was at high school our gym frocks (was there ever a less practical and more unattractive uniform?) were supposed to touch the floor when we knelt.

They often didn’t and we also had to wear a braided girdle our house colour. This we did, slung low on our hips and on some that wasn’t much higher than some of the hems.

Fast forward a few decades and schools were unhappy about the fashion that led to kilts almost at ankle-level.

However, in this story, it’s not the hem length but the explanation for the rule that is causing the controversy:

The reason? Sade says deputy principal Cherith Telford told the group it was to “keep our girls safe, stop boys from getting ideas and create a good work environment for male staff”.

For Sade and her fellow year 11 student, Jazmyn Green, it was those two comments that upset them.

“The rules themselves aren’t the problem; the problem is when these codes target girls specifically because their bodies are sexual and distracting,” says Sade.

Henderson High School is a decile three school in west Auckland. It has gone through a remarkable transformation under the helm of current principal Mike Purcell. . .

Several of the parents that spoke to Newshub believe Mr Purcell is doing a great job, but they’re unhappy with the way the issue of the uniform’s skirt is being handled.

“Henderson High School has rules relating to the wearing of school uniforms,” Mr Purcell says in a statement released to Newshub.

“These rules are not new and all families are made aware of them when they enrol. They include a stipulation that the hemline of female students’ skirts must be on the knee, no higher.

“The uniform is practical for school wear and these rules are regularly enforced to ensure that all students can focus on their learning and feel comfortable in the school environment. . . 

I back a school to have any reasonable rules about a dress code for pupils and the hemline requirement isn’t unreasonable in itself.

But the explanation supposedly given by the DP belongs to other times and places not in 21st century New Zealand. It’s that sort of reasoning that puts women in burkas and neither our culture nor our laws hem women in like that.

If male pupils and teachers are distracted by shorter hems it is they who have and are the problem.

 


BPS targets

March 15, 2016

The Public Service is working hard to meet the targets the government set for better public services:

Student achievement is ahead of target, welfare dependence continues to fall, immunisation rates are growing and child abuse rates are stabilising, Ministers Bill English and Paula Bennett say.

The Government has released the latest update of the Better Public Services (BPS) Results, outlining their progress against the ten challenging targets set by the Prime Minister in 2012.

The BPS targets include reducing long-term welfare dependence, supporting vulnerable children, boosting skills and employment, reducing crime, and improving public and business interaction with government.

Provisional 2015 NCEA Level 2 achievement results show the proportion of 18-year olds who achieve a NCEA Level 2 qualification has increased to 84.4 per cent, from 74.3 per cent in 2011.

“This means the target of 85 per cent by 2017 has almost been meet, two years ahead of schedule,” Mr English says.

The number of benefit recipients has decreased by 7,245 in a year, largely driven by decreases in Sole Parent Support and Job Seeker support numbers.

“This is good news on two levels because sole parents are getting into the workforce and becoming independent.

“In the last year we’ve reduced the long term cost of benefit dependence by $2.4 billion dollars through welfare reform and better support for beneficiaries to get back to work.”

The reduction of cost isn’t the only benefit. Social indicators such as health, education and crime are better for people in work and their children than for those on benefits.

The most recent results show that since the targets were introduced:

  • the proportion of immunised 8-month olds has increased from 82 per cent to  93.7 per cent
  • there has been a 45 per cent decrease in people being hospitalised for the first time with rheumatic fever, a disease of poverty
  • the trend in the number of children and young people experiencing substantiated physical abuse has flattened, after previously being on an upward trajectory
  • total crime, violent crime and youth crime have dropped 17 per cent, 10 per cent and 39 per cent respectively
  • 52.9 per cent of government service transactions with citizens are now completed digitally, up from 29.9 per cent in 2012

“This has always been an aspirational Government, which is why we set challenging targets in areas that matter to New Zealanders, like ensuring our schools deliver outstanding education, healthcare is reaching those who most need it, and our communities are safe,” State Services Minister Paula Bennett says.

“Without doubt, we wouldn’t be seeing these kinds of results without the hard work and dedication from hundreds of thousands of public servants across New Zealand.

“We’re committed to backing them to do their jobs, which is why we’re spending more on frontline services and changing our structures so agencies can work together more effectively.”

The latest Better Public Service Results update can be found here

New Zealand National Party's photo.


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