Invercargill student Aimee Paterson isn't one to shy away from a challenge – especially if it involves agriculture.

The 16-year-old has helped spearhead a food-focused educational project at Southland Girls' High School.

Paterson's one of a handful of TeenAg members who teamed up with teachers to teach Year 7 students about farming.

The initiative saw 160 girls visit two farms to learn how science is driving gains in meat and milk production.

Advertisement

"It's been such an eye-opening experience. A number of the younger students didn't realise the skill involved in producing food and fibre," said Paterson.

Students spent mornings in the classroom being taught theory, then got hands-on, practical experience after lunch.

Students take a look around the milking shed at Farm Fresh South. Photo / Supplied
Students take a look around the milking shed at Farm Fresh South. Photo / Supplied

They helped draft sheep on Nigel King's farm near Invercargill and watched as Paterson crutched a lamb.

"Nigel was extremely supportive and inspiring. He said me crutching a sheep showed that girls can do anything," she said.

"He told us the agri-food sector is full of opportunities and encouraged us to pursue careers in the primary industries."

One group of pupils visited Farm Fresh South, which sells raw milk from a small herd of cows.

"The trip enabled the girls to see the grass to glass process of milk production," said Paterson.

Students learning how grass is turned into milk. Photo / Supplied
Students learning how grass is turned into milk. Photo / Supplied

"They had so many questions after going into the paddock to see the herd, touring the milking shed and sampling the milk."

"One of the girls even put the farmer on the spot and asked what happens when bulls and cows mate," she laughed.

The visit was part of a major national project putting Years 6-8 students onto farms.

The education programme is funded by the Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP) and delivered by NZ Young Farmers (NZYF).

"It's designed to get the primary industries on the radar of students, so they're aware of the career opportunities," said NZYF territory manager Amber Mitchell.

For a number of the students it was their first time visiting a farm.

Aimee Paterson crutches a sheep. Photo / Supplied
Aimee Paterson crutches a sheep. Photo / Supplied

The field trips are already having a positive follow-on effect for the school's active TeenAg club.

"We've gained a lot of new members as a result of the programme being taught at our school," said Paterson.

"After each farm visit Year 7 students would ask how they could sign up to the TeenAg club, which is awesome."

"I have a farming background and I'd love to see the Bigger and Better unit taught in more schools," she said.

Teachers can download free agri-food related teaching resources from the Agrication website.