The Northland "farmer to farmer learning" programme Extension 350 is approaching the halfway mark and making good headway across the region.

Farmer led and farmer focused, E350 kicked off in 2016, with the intention of getting a total of 350 farmers involved across Northland over a five-year programme.

The initiative aims to assist farmers in achieving their goals and objectives by having open, honest and frank discussions with their peers alongside input from a farm advisor and wider project and industry support.

The project, part of the Tai Tokerau Northland Economic Plan, is supported by Northland Inc, Ministry for Primary Industries, Northland Regional Council, DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ.

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"There are just under 300 farmers involved in the region now and we're starting to see signs of an increase in profitability, improving environmental sustainability and improving farmer wellbeing – the three main planks of E350,'' project leader Luke Beehre, from Northland Inc, said.

"But it is not just about profitability; to achieve farming success, you also have to focus on creating a sustainable environment and a healthier farming community, and that is certainly happening."

E350 was proving a "dynamic learning process", not just for farmers, but for mentors and the project, too, he said.

"When you're focused on the day-to-day running of your farming business, it can be hard to see the bigger picture, the other approaches, but E350 helps farmers by enabling them to look at their businesses through a fresh pair of eyes."

Beehre said E350 was on course to have the intended number of farmers – 350 – involved across Northland during the coming months. It is not too late for farmers to get on board with E350 as associate farmers.

"The majority of the farmers involved in the programme are all at different stages," he said. "Some have been involved for two years, some for a bit longer, while others are just starting out.''

This year will see seven public field days delivered across the region, with 10 planned for next year.

E350 won a top honour at the 2018 Economic Development NZ Awards last November, receiving the award for Best Practice in Sustainable Development.

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