‘Farmer Time for Schools’ bridges gap between students and farm life

// Staff and Training

Farmer Time for Schools is celebrating its second year of building connections between school students and farmers.

image of couple and dogs next to ute

*Farmer Time for Schools National Coordinator Marie Burke with husband Rob. 

The initiative by Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ), connects New Zealand school students and teachers with farmers across the country by giving the classroom a peek into farming life. 

Student participation increased by eight percent from 2022, to nearly 1,100 students, despite the challenges posed by adverse weather, the lingering impact of Covid-19, and teacher strikes in 2023. 

Farmer Time for Schools National Coordinator, Marie Burke says "Being involved with Farmer Time for Schools and witnessing its growth has been amazing. The overwhelmingly positive feedback from both farmers and teachers reaffirms to me the importance and value of this initiative. I am really proud to be a part of it." 

The programme has expanded significantly since its humble beginnings in 2022 where there were only eight farmer-teacher pairs. By the end of 2023, 95 teacher-farmer pairs and 2,115 students had experienced Farmer Time for Schools over the two-year period. The programme has also evolved so it is now open to both urban and rural schools. 

The initiative is looking for more schools to participate. Marie says, "We have many farmers eager to participate, but currently face a shortage of teachers." 

Burke says “We received numerous requests from rural schools eager to join the programme. Initially, we underestimated the potential impact on rural schools, assuming they might not benefit as much from Farmer Time for Schools. However, it became clear that even children attending rural schools may lack food production knowledge.” 

The success of Farmer Time for Schools is reflected in the recent annual survey, where participants overwhelmingly praised the initiative. Teachers surveyed said they enjoyed its ability to facilitate applied learning scenarios, particularly in subjects like science and maths, while farmers cherished the opportunity to connect with students. Also, all participants agreed that the programme effectively raised awareness about food production and introduced students to potential career paths in the primary industries. 

Sandra Howard, a teacher at Tamatea Intermediate in Hawkes Bay, says of her involvement with Farmer Time for Schools says the programme is extremely beneficial. 

Matched with Southland farmers Colin and Dot McDonald, Howard says “by actively participating and connecting with our farmers on a regular basis, my learners acquired a multifaceted education that extended beyond the classroom, fostering a holistic understanding of food production, environmental sustainability, and community engagement.”  

The McDonald’s also speak very highly of their Farmer Time for Schools experience, “We love it and have found it quite therapeutic as the kids are so pro farming and interested in everything!”  

Having had the same class for two years the McDonald’s have made a big impression. Dot McDonald says, “they were asking what sort of jobs they could do in agriculture, one asked how a town girl could become a shepherd.  

“These kids have had a tiny taste of what’s possible, we need these bright young people in all aspects of farming and if we can give them a look at what’s possible, maybe they will choose careers in the primary industries.”  

Howard says, this could well be the case, “some of my learners are now considering a job in farming.” 

Now in its third year, Farmer Time for Schools aims to broaden its reach, raising awareness and inspiring as many students as possible. A trial is currently underway with Te Kura, formerly The Correspondence School to test the programme’s suitability for distance learners. Initial feedback has been positive. 

Burke is urging teachers to get onboard with Farmer Time for Schools, noting, "Our survey revealed that all teachers and students who participated thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and we know you and your class will too!” 

More information

To find out more visit www.farmertime.co.nz

Read the 2023 Farmer Time for Schools Impact Report (PDF, 913KB)

The initiative is driven by B+LNZ Inc who is responsible for the domestic promotion of beef and lamb and is jointly funded by farmers (B+LNZ Ltd), New Zealand retailers and New Zealand processors.