Report finds Northland’s Extension 350 farming programme a success

// Extension

Northland’s Extension 350 (E350) agri-extension and development programme has been successful in helping regional farmers reach their goals.

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The farmer-learning-from-farmer programme was launched in 2016 with the aim of helping Northland farmers in achieving their goals and objectives including profitability, environmental sustainability, and wellbeing. 

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) co-funded the programme alongside Northland Inc, Ministry of Primary Industries, DairyNZ, Northland Regional Council and target farmers. 

B+LNZ’s South Island GM John Ladley says the programme gave farmers the opportunity to learn from each other in a supportive environment that fostered trust and enabled learners to gain practical and theoretical knowledge.

An independent evaluation report produced by Scarlatti Limited has identified that there are significant economic successes of the programme, with the evaluation showing the programme investment of $4.1m generated financial returns of $48.6m against measurable financial outcomes. This result reflects an almost 12:1 return on investment, with environmental and wellbeing outcomes additional to this figure. 

Extension 350 Chair, Ken Hames, says the Scarlatti report highlights the positive traction the programme has created with famers across the region.

“The financial success measures outlined within the report reflect the tangible changes that the E350 programme have helped farmers achieve, including improving on farm efficiencies, infrastructure, and succession planning. These financial outcomes are only one element of the overall programme success, with the sustainable and long-term effects, particularly those around farmer well-being and environmental sustainability, yet to be realised.”

The report has been published as the five-and-a-half-year programme comes to a close across the region. During this period, the programme has engaged with 384 farmers across Northland, well exceeding the original target of 350. 

One of the target farmers involved in the programme, Lachie Maclean, says the on-farm changes which E350 supported him in making have had great benefits to his wellbeing.

“When I started E350 I wasn’t quite sure what I was taking on, but I was keen to have the advice. I’ve learnt a lot on the way and have had a lot of experiences…from where I started in E350, I’ve ended up with a sharemilker on the farm and a nice new shed, it’s made it big enough for me to actually take a step back… [E350] was invaluable, I can’t sing highly enough of it” he says. 

In addition to the financial measures, environmental and wellbeing outcomes were also assessed within the report. Findings showed that all target farms involved completed Farm Environment Plans (FEP) during the programme, with 100 percent of farms involved reporting progress towards completing FEP actions as a result. 

Farmers across the programme reported improvements in their social and business networks, and 59% reported an increase in discussing wellbeing around their kitchen table, and in social circles in comparison to prior to their involvement with E350. Of the outcomes which farmers felt they gained the most from through the programme, ‘connection to others’ and ‘wellbeing’ were listed within the top five results. 

Northland Inc General Manager of Investment and Infrastructure, Vaughan Cooper, says it is the tangible change created through the programme which makes Extension 350 such a success.

“Having delivered the Extension 350 project since its inception, Northland Inc have seen first-hand the journey of change which the programme participants have been on. The Scarlatti report validates the change which we have seen over the past five-and-a-half years, and the value which Extension 350 has bought to the Taitokerau Northland farming community.”

“With the pastoral sector and associated manufacturing accounting for 38% of Northland exports in 2021, Extension 350 will create ripple effects which impact not only the Northland farming community, but the regional economy as a whole. The continuation of projects to support the pastoral sector will be important in continuing to support the industry and create positive economic benefits for the region” he says. 

The Scarlatti Limited Independent Report forms the basis of the Extension 350 Final Report, available on the Northland Inc website, along with on-farm case studies of the programme's success. View the content here.

About Northland Inc

Northland Inc is the Regional Economic Development Agency for Northland encompassing the Regional Tourism Organisation and delivering central government’s Regional Business Partner (RBP) Network. Extension 350 is a long-term farmer learning from farmer extension programme.  It was launched in 2016 and is led by Northland farmers. The project focus is on-farm and for farmers. Find out more about Extention350.

About B+LNZ’s investment into 350

B+LNZ invests in extension activities that support farmers with change with a focus on improving production and profitability.

We do this by collaborating with others to extend our reach and make a greater impact. View B+LNZ’s Farming Excellence Strategy (PDF, 3MB)