On the next episode, screening 4 June 2017 at 7pm on TVNZ 1:
Northland dairy farmer Evan Smeath still goes back to school, but these days it’s to encourage a new generation of students to think about a career in farming.
Evan went to Hukerenui School, north of Whangarei, as did his children and now his grandchildren.
Three years ago the rural school came up with a plan to make better use of land that was becoming too costly to maintain. ‘Most of it was fenced off or out of bounds,’ Principal Bastienne Kruger says. ‘All we could do was mow it.’
With the help of local seed and fertiliser companies the students turned over a patch of the school field and prepared the soil to grow maize. A number of local people joined in the project, showing the children how to sow the seed, spray for pests and harvest the crop.
The students soon realized that if they were to make a profit, they needed more growing land. So they secured a deal with Evan Smeath, who allowed the students to plant maize on five hectares of his Hukerenui farm.
Over summer, the Hukerenui Year Seven and Eights had to deal with Northland’s drought which dried up their maize. They faced hard decisions about when to harvest.
‘We faced the worst drought in 40 years in the North,’ Evan says. ‘A cool spring meant nothing much grew. In February we were on the verge of harvesting what little maize we had and putting it in the bunker as a green crop.
‘But rain came at the 11th hour and 59 minutes. It was enough to save our crop and has resulted in some good returns for the students.’
Evan went back to class to negotiate a price for his maize. The students had their spreadsheets to the ready as they worked out costings and came up with a $12,000 profit for the school.
‘It’s real-life learning,’ Bastienne Kruger says. ‘The students have experienced everything a farmer goes through. They’ve learnt how pests can ruin a crop, they’ve had to make a call about when to harvest.
‘They have learnt something here that they will never forget.’
For more about the Hukerenui School Project, visit:www.hukerenui.school.nz
For more about Jersey cows, visit:www.jersey.org.nz
For more about biological soil management, visit: www.kiwifertiliser.co.nz
For more about the Jack Morgan Museum, visit:www.jackmorganmuseum.co.nz
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