Rural round-up

August 9, 2019

Plans to expand dairy farm school into Oamaru – Gus Patterson:

It will not just be pilots training at Oamaru Airport next year.

The National Trade Academy (NTA) has announced plans to establish a dairy farm school at the airport, next to the NTA-affiliated New Zealand Airline Academy.

The dairy farm school, which is expected to become operational next March, will take up to 11 students in each intake and teach them the basics of dairy farming during a 12 week course, getting them ready to fill the labour shortages on farms in Canterbury and Otago.

Initially, the school would aim to train between 30 and 40 students a year, with a classroom at the airport and surrounding farms used for practical aspects, NTA managing director Craig Musson said. . .

Big turnout and ‘fabulous’ response to Will to Live tour – Yvonne O’Hara:

The importance of ”speaking up” when feeling depressed or down, is emphasised at each of Elle Perriam’s Will to Live Speak Up meetings, two of which were held in Winton and Balclutha last week.

Ms Perriam’s boyfriend Will Gregory took his own life in 2017.

She, her sisters Kate and Sarah and others, raised money to undertake a tour of nearly 20 small rural venues throughout New Zealand to promote the importance of ”speaking up” about mental health issues.

Will’s dog Jess is the tour’s mascot. . .

Cadet scheme gets started in Northland – Hugh Stringleman:

Northland livestock farmers have been challenged to offer farm cadetships to address what they say is a persistent problem of unfilled farming vacancies.

Whangarei A&P Society has devised a modern live-in, on-farm training course called a farm intern programme and 50 farmers have responded, 20 of them willing to start next year.

“Northland farmers say they can’t find trained farm staff so this is their opportunity to do something about it,” society manager Chris Mason said.

The new course was conceived by the A&P Society with input from former Federated Farmers field officer and agricultural tutor Malcolm Fuller and the resources of NZ Land-Based Training, an established private education provider in Whanganui.  . . 

What beyond meat investors should know – Richard Berman:

Following its initial public offering (IPO) in May, the alternative meat company Beyond Meat has seen its stock skyrocket. This week, the share price climbed past $230, putting the company’s valuation above $13 billion, as the market anticipated its upcoming quarterly earnings. That’s billion with a “B,” as they say. 

Here’s another “B” word: Beware. Despite all of the hype, there’s a soft side to Beyond Meat’s underbelly. 

Beyond Meat’s valuation is greater than the entire U.S. market for all plant-based foods — which are produced by dozens of companies. It’s also bigger than Wendy’s, Shake Shack, Red Robin and Jack in the Box— combined. This is perplexing given that, in the words of one analyst, Beyond Meat is merely “a small maker of fake-meat hamburgers and hot dogs.” The company reported $67 million in sales and $6.6 million in losses last quarter after a decade in business. . .

Unique farming technique brings splash of colour :

A Yorkshire farmer has used a unique farming technique to turn 74-acres of his land into an impressive wildflower woodland.

A picture perfect swathe of wildflowers has swept across farmland close to York, but the scene does not tell the whole story.

The flowers are blooming as the result of Alwyn Craven and his mother, who own more than 120-acres of land at Home Farm, at Huby, and are turning most of it over to nature.

As well as planting hundreds of trees, they are using a technique known as “soil inversion” – using a one metre deep plough to turn over the soil burying weed seeds and fertile soil. . .

Leaft Foods announces plans to produce protein from leafy crops:

• Plant protein ingredients company, Leaft Foods has been launched in Canterbury by Dr John Leyland Penno and Maury Leyland Penno

• Leaft Foods are combining existing and new technology with the aim of producing a range of high value leaf protein concentrate ingredients for leading food companies around the world

• The paddock to product business seeks to play a role in agricultural sector transformation, partnering with farmers to reduce on-farm net emissions, targeting nitrogen and methane. . . 

 


Fears for training of future farmers

February 7, 2019

The government is throwing millions at fee-free tertiary education but there’s no cash to spare for training future farmers:

Federated Farmers board member Chris Lewis said the liquidation of Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre a month ago was the latest sign that the government needed to overhaul certificate-level tertiary education for staff in the primary industries.

“This has been an issue for a long, long time. A lot of providers have come into the industry and set up training but a lot of them have left or have struggled and at the end of the day it comes back down to it’s not financially viable to run training for young farm staff because they don’t get enough funding from the government.”

Mr Lewis said there was a shortage of trained farm staff and some courses did not provide the skills that farmers needed in their workers.

Craig Musson from the National Trade Academy said few tertiary institutions were still offering certificates in skills for land-based industries and those that were, were struggling.

He said too few students were enrolling and government funding was inadequate for the costs involved.

“In our sector it’s not a classroom, white board and a teacher. You have to have tractors, motorbikes, quads. You’ve got to have fencing, you’ve got to have stock and with all that comes repairs and maintenance and replacement of equipment and a normal business doesn’t have those same costs,” he said.

Mr Musson said the government paid about $10,000 for each full-time agriculture student studying a certificate course and institutions received a further $3000 to $4000 in fees.

That was not enough given the small class sizes and high overheads for courses in farming skills and it was especially hard if students dropped out and could not be replaced, he said.

Mr Musson said more education providers would go out of business unless things improved.

“It’s obviously just getting more and more difficult for the providers that are left and eventually it becomes that it’s not financially viable to do the training any more,” he said.

“You only have to have a bad year as far as feed costs and then you’ve got fuel costs because we have to travel to farms to do the milkings, we have to do field visits and that’s a massive cost that most providers would not have either.”

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said changes would be made as part of wider reform of the vocational education and training system and the government was aware there was urgent need in the agriculture sector.

“We’re looking very closely at the agricultural sector given its importance to the New Zealand economy, the desperate need for more skilled labour in that area, but actually the problems facing agriculture are the same as problems facing many other industries around the country so we’re looking very closely at vocational education generally,” he said. . . 

Neal Wallace says a new training model is needed:

. . .By its very nature educating primary sector students is more expensive and intensive than other vocational courses.

It requires students to live on working farms, to be given a student-centric education – you can’t teach fencing on a blackboard – and it comes with high compliance and pastoral care costs. Taratahi had a ratio of one staff member to 10 students. 

But it appears to have finally succumbed to the millennial factor.

Fewer young people are choosing farming as a career, while numbers of potential students have shrunk because of successive years of low unemployment allowing those who would normally seek training to go directly in to work.

Telford and Taratahi have struggled to grow their rolls in recent years and are required to repay the Tertiary Education Commission $10 million for being funded for more students than were enrolled.

Not dismissing the obvious distress to students and staff, collapsing on the eve of Taratahi’s centenary adds to the misery.

But its centennial legacy, from what can best be described as an educational train wreck, is that Government and education officials can no longer ignore the essential issue of creating a sustainable sub-degree funding and administrative model for primary sector education.

Tina Nixon also notes two fundamental problems with the future success of primary sector vocational training:

The government: The present government [and those of the past] has never really understood the sector, the cost of training or really got to grips with the woeful performance of the Tertiary Education Commission [TEC], the body that decides what will be funded and how.

This became patently evident when I first became involved with Taratahi.

I suggested that it got into training beekeepers, which, as it turns out, has been lucrative.

The process for actually delivering beekeeping courses took months –  TEC should be geared up alongside NZQA to get ahead of industry demand but it doesn’t – they lag  at least a year, sometimes a lot longer.

TEC is without a doubt one of the most bureaucratic organisations I have ever interacted with, and I have worked with a few.

It has not served the country and its governments well. I applaud the current government for looking to overhaul the tertiary sector, but I condemn it for the short-sightedness about how best that overhaul is carried out.

If the TEC and its current administration survive the next year, then this government will have failed the sector.

The government’s decision not to fund Taratahi was based on advice from TEC —  behind closed doors with no chance for Taratahi to talk directly to the ministers involved.

So, Taratahi doesn’t even know what was presented – but the $30m touted by some as what was required for the organisation to continue  is wrong. What they needed was $5 million – pretty much the same amount it had repaid of the previous administration’s legacy debt. . . 

A request for just $5 million was turned down when the Provincial Growth Fund showers much more on far less worthy projects.

So what of the future?

If the community leaders consign all that has been learned and achieved by Taratahi in 2-1/2 years into the dustbin, then they will be condemned to creating yet another failure and snub some of the best educationists in the industry.

What we need  to see is Taratahi rise again in the next few months – underpinned by all the good systems and knowledge built up in the past two years, within a newly-framed tertiary education sector with the required funding levels. With all that in place, it will become an enduring engine room for primary sector talent development.

The primary sector can do some on-the-job training but that is no substitute for what can be done in dedicated training institutes like Taratahi and Telford if they are properly funded.

 


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