Getting children interested in agriculture is important if we want our future agriculture workforce to come from within New Zealand.
It's also important if we want people to understand where their food comes from and why the country is so good at producing it.
A new online learning resource has been developed, tailored to suit the curriculum for Years 5-8. The Soil, Food and Society web-based resource covers how food is grown and takes the student from the nutrients in the soil to what appears in the lunch box, with experiments to back it all up.
Teachers are supported with excellent teaching notes to help develop the students' interest in getting balanced, scientific information on food production.
Year 12 students are being enticed with a new agribusiness secondary school subject. It's to be trialled at schools next year in a bid to attract "the brightest and best" to careers in the primary industries. Initiated by St Paul's Collegiate School in Hamilton, agribusiness will be included in the curriculums of 10 secondary schools in an NZQA trial, before becoming available to all secondary schools from 2018.
It's not just about sitting in classrooms either. TeenAg, a division of Young Farmers, has clubs in many urban and rural secondary schools. It offers the opportunity to develop skills and knowledge of the primary industry, not just at the farming level but all of the other career pathways that support the primary industries.
If students are encouraged to discuss issues and to look at problems from a hands-on, scientific perspective they may well pick up that inquisitive gene that makes them want to continue on that same path.
Making a career in science, agribusiness or on the land producing food is a win for New Zealand. It also helps with the understanding of why farmers do what they do.
There are other initiatives to entice people from outside the education system into agriculture. For example, in Waikato and Ashburton there is a scheme focusing on career development and support for farm workers. It assists employees for three years to get them to senior level by overseeing and managing their recruitment, selection, employment, training and career development. In Ashburton, 50 per cent of those who have taken part are now employed on dairy farms six months later.
Federated Farmers has been at the forefront of the development of many of these initiatives.
- Ann Thompson is a policy adviser for Federated Farmers.