Benneydale School children watched eagerly as wool came off sheep on Storth Oaks Farm.

For some of the pupils it was the first time they'd ever been on a farm, not to mention seeing a sheep in the flesh.

"It's very soft and mushy," one pupil said as he felt the wool.

"It's nice, it smells like cotton candy," another student said.


The farm visit formed part of a nationwide project giving children access to sheep and beef farms and hopefully sowing the seed of a potential agricultural career.

It has been estimated New Zealand's red meat sector will need to find an extra 33,000 workers by 2025 to replace those retiring or exiting the industry, so the groundwork is being laid early.

"Some kids have never had the opportunity to ever be on a farm," said Deborah Kingma of NZ Young Farmers.

"Unless they have been exposed and have enjoyed it... they can say well actually I've had this experience and I really enjoyed it and I'd like to pursue it further when I get to high school."

Storth Oaks Angus Stud Farm near Otorohanga opened its gates to show the tamariki there are plenty of career opportunities to be had.

Owner Tim Brittain said more young people were needed in the agricultural sector because most farmers were getting older.

"We need bright young people who have the passion and the desire but also the ability and intelligence to take the industry forward," he said.

"Because it is becoming far more technical and far more demanding.


Brittain was keen to dispel some commonly held beliefs that there are only opportunities in the agricultural sector for those who have grown up on a farm.

Benneydale School pupils on the farm. Photo / Hunter Calder
Benneydale School pupils on the farm. Photo / Hunter Calder

"Sometimes young people see the barrier of having to buy land to get into it, but really there's great management opportunities.

"But to be able to fulfil those roles, as well as the practical skills and the farming skills, you've got to be able to have a good basic education in farming and agriculture and business because it is a business."

"There's more than just being a farmer," Kingma added.

"It's about being a vet or the soil person or the person that grows grasses."

In preparation for the farm visit the older pupils learned about genetics in class and had plenty of questions about artificial insemination.

"What I found interesting was the small stick. It's just like 10 cm or 5 cm and that's how small a bull's sperm is. I'm shocked!" said Year 8 pupil Mike Kaleopa.

"They freeze it in nitrogen and it's $50 for one sperm. They use it to make bigger and better quality beef," Kaleopa's classmate Ariana Nathan said.

Benneydale is the first school in New Zealand to use both the English and Te Reo Māori versions of the teaching resource.

Principal Vanessa Te Huia said the trip acted as a reminder for the children to look after their environment.

"Storth Oaks, they have gone out of their way for us. From tractor rides on the hay bails to putting on a morning tea, you know these kids are very looked after with Food in Schools project, Fonterra milk and then to come out here to get these extra treats.

Benneydale School principal Vanessa Te Huia. Photo / Hunter Calder
Benneydale School principal Vanessa Te Huia. Photo / Hunter Calder

"They feel special, they feel that this is our community looking after our extended community, so it feels great."

The visit ended with students singing their school song, while Angus bulls grazed.

"One day I'm going to be a farmer and maybe you can give me a job," Ariana Nathan told the Brittains as she left.

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