The North Otago Sustainable Land Management (NOSLAM) group recently hosted Year 11 students from all of Oamaru’s three high schools.
NOSLaM hosted over 70 Year 11 Students from Oamaru’s three high schools within the catchment; Waitaki Boys, Waitaki Girls and St Kevins College on a bus tour of irrigation infrastructure and farming operations around the North Otago region.
The field trip aimed to get students out on farms, visiting a variety of land use types in the area and gave students who are making career decisions an insight into opportunities within agriculture.
“It was a great way to demonstrate some of their classroom learning around soils and showcase future careers in different farming types and explain how students might best set themselves up for those roles. They also learned about the use of technology on farms and the impact of irrigation on the viability and production of those farms,” says Nicola Neal, NOSLaM Engagement Officer
Although this is an annual field day, it was the first time all three schools collaborated.
The day started with a visit to the main pump shed on the North Otago Irrigation Scheme. Nicola says this is one of the biggest pump station in Australasia. “This scheme delivers water to over 26000 ha of North Otago farmland, and has been a major contributor to agricultural growth and productivity so it was fantastic to include this link in the students learning.”
Next stop was the Mitchell’s large arable farm with a high level of diversification including livestock grazing, commercial seed crops and alternative crops such as canary seed and sunflowers for the pet food market.
“Students got an insight into the tech side of what the Mitchell’s are using including GPS self-drive tractors and infrared variable rate nitrogen application cameras to increase efficiency in the business and achieve great environmental outcomes. The Mitchells are also associated with Topflite animal feeds and products, so they shared some insights into production, preparation and marketing of some of their products - a fabulous introduction for the students of a local vertically integrated business with a highly successful product range,” she says.
Students then visited the Webster’s dairy operation, where they discussed winter grazing, use of nitrogen catch crops and even had a taste of some fodder beet. “They also had a look around the dairy shed and talked to staff about their roles on farm and how technology integration has changed, affected or enhanced these,” says Nicola.
Local meat processing company BX Foods sponsored a BBQ lunch and introduced their local university graduates, one of which is a member of the NOSLaM steering committee.
Finally, students visited the McNaughton’s high country and downlands sheep and beef operation.
Grant McNaughton, a previous Young Farmer of the Year, shared his perspective with the students about future careers in the Agriculture sector, and how they could make the most of the opportunities on offer.
“Feedback from teachers has been excellent. The field day can be referenced later in the year when individual units such as soils or irrigation use are discussed within class and farmers said they were happy to meet with classes again later in the year to dig further into some of the topics.
“All three schools were really engaged with the project and we look forward to helping to bring them all together in the field again regularly. As a catchment group, we hope to be able to support all of these schools to enhance and give local context to the curriculum for Agriculture,” says Neal.
NOSLaM (North Otago Sustainable Land Management) is a group driven by farmers keen to improve water quality and promote good pastoral management. The farmers wish to take a proactive leadership role in managing waterways, such as the Kakanui River, to ensure that a holistic approach is taken, encompassing the environmental, economic and social wellbeing of the wider community.