Farm advice: Shaping young minds, one farm visit at a time

By: Natalia Benquet, DairyNZ senior consulting officer


Schools in NZ are taking up the opportunity to educate their students (and caregivers) about dairy farming, thanks to DairyNZ’s Rosie Education programme

I’m a firm believer in the power of education. As Nelson Mandela once said: "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."

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I’ve been impressed by the efforts many of you are taking to inform people about what really happens on farm, whether it be through correcting misinformation online, sharing your stories on social media, or opening your farm gates. It really can make a difference, even though it may not always feel like it at times.

A few months ago, I was fortunate to see the impact this can make first-hand when I helped at two school visits to local dairy farms in Canterbury. It was amazing to see just how engaged and curious the children were in learning more about dairy and where their milk comes from. 

We talked to them about everything from cow and calf care, through to looking after the environment, irrigation, milk collection, and quality controls.

Feeding the calves on the calfeteria and milk tasting were clear highlights for the kids, but they were even amazed at simple things such as how much grass a cow eats each day. I found this a good reminder to stop and appreciate the little things that we can often take for granted.

For many students (and their parents), this was their first time on a farm and one teacher wrote to me to say everyone had an "awesome" experience.

"We are forever grateful," she said. The icing on the cake was the thank-you letters from the children – that made my day.

These school visits are part of DairyNZ’s Rosie Education programme. Over the past year, thanks to farmer volunteers, 7553 children visited a dairy farm, along with their teachers and parents. The programme takes care of the communications between school and farmer and supports with health and safety requirements.

It’s great that farmers are opening their farm gates and schools are taking up the opportunity to educate their students (and caregivers) about dairy. My hope is that more farmers and schools engage in this learning experience, as for many children, and parents, it may be the first and only chance they get to spend time on a farm.

These visits may not only encourage a child to take up a career in dairy but also provides their parents with better information to help them work through their child’s career options and may even inspire a career change for themselves. They are also an opportunity for you to tell your story and shape the impression parents or teachers may hold of the dairy sector.

If you’re interested to find out more about Rosie’s Education programme, or hosting a school on your farm, visit dairynz.co.nz/education.

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