Wednesday, July 6, 2022

More land needed to lift standards

Lincoln University intends to acquire or lease more farms for research, demonstration and teaching while it pursues a “deliberate and energetic policy” of lifting standards in vocational education for the primary sector.

Vice-chancellor Andrew West said Lincoln wants to be the standard bearer for academic quality in the training of farm employees.

“Standards in this vocational area have slipped and farmers are disillusioned with what’s coming out of the training system,” he said.

Although Lincoln is a relative newcomer in this space, dating back to its January 2011 merger with Telford Polytechnic, its academic quality and brand reputation will provide impetus for improvements.

West said proposals before Lincoln’s Council would substantially extend the university’s activities from 2014 in what he called a highly competitive yet relatively disorganised area of tertiary education.

Lincoln already has more than 1000 vocational trainees, who do part-time learning while on the job, enrolled in regional learning centres plus those studying at Telford Farm, Balclutha, while resident or through correspondence.

Lincoln University diplomas in agriculture and horticulture are already offered through part-time study through Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre in Wairarapa and Taranaki, Manukau Institute of Technology in Auckland, Aoraki Polytechnic in South Canterbury, Darfield Rural College in Mid-Canterbury and Fruition Horticulture consultants in Nelson, Marlborough, Bay of Plenty and Hawke’s Bay.

“Standards in this vocational area have slipped and farmers are disillusioned with what’s coming out of the training system.”

Andrew West

Lincoln University

It has a new partnership with Smedley Training Farm in Hawke’s Bay and is in talks with potential partners in Manawatu and Northland.

Lincoln has appointed a farms advisory committee of eight farmers nationally, four senior academics and two farm managers under the chairmanship of Waikato agri-businessman Ross Hyland (Farmers Weekly, June 3).

He is former managing director and part-owner of animal nutrition company Seales Winslow where West worked between leaving AgResearch and joining Lincoln.

Lincoln already has 13 farming and horticultural properties, mostly in Canterbury, totalling 3900ha.

West’s remarks about extending the farms portfolio were made at a Beef + Lamb New Zealand farmer council seminar held recently at Lincoln which he was asked to open.

He assured farmers that Lincoln would continue to support sheep and beef farming and intended to develop finishing farms in both islands to demonstrate that the return on assets could be as good as, perhaps better than, dairying.

Subject to agreement by the farm’s trustees, Silverwood at Hororata would be the South Island site but West declined to name a North Island farm yet. Silverwood is in the first irrigation area for the Central Plains Water scheme.

He had no doubt the return on assets from intensive sheep farming could compete with dairying but the purpose of a demonstration farm would be to show sustainability of returns as lamb, mutton and wool prices fluctuate.

“We must maintain diversification of land uses and farming options as dairying development is predominating at present.

“If world dairy prices come down for any reason we might have all our eggs in the one basket.”

B+LNZ central South Island farmer council chairman Bill Wright said Lincoln’s determination to foster sheep and beef farming was very welcome as the Canterbury plains were approaching a dairying monoculture.

“Lincoln is getting plenty of publicity with the science hub and it is great to see it will remain relevant to farming,” he said.

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