When 70 per cent of your school roll arrive by bus from rural areas, it’s hardly a surprise that there’s demand for a Young Farmers Club at Te Awamutu College.
In 2017 the college’s agricultural science teacher, James Saunders, started this TeenAg group within the college. The college offers agricultural science at NCEA Level 1, 2 and 3, and it is a popular class, with more and more girls taking that career path.
“TeenAg is the name for the high school age Young Farmers, but we call ourselves Te Awamutu College Young Farmers for ease,” says Mr Saunders.
Using the social media handle @TeenAgTAC, the club has around 32 members and falls under the Waikato/Bay of Plenty Region Young Farmers.
“Our members are from farms, lifestyle and even town, with a 50/50 split of girls and boys,” says club chairman, 15-year-old Sarah Druce.
Meetings are held every two weeks.
“We’ve done things like riparian planting, observing the butchery process, and listening to guest speakers,” says MacKenzie Fitzgerald, 14.
The group were thwarted through 2020 by Covid-19, but are eagerly planning their itinerary for 2021.
“We’re hoping to visit a drystock farm and a dairy farm, spend time with a rural contractor and a butcher, and learn about pasture management,” says Boyd Fitzgerald, 15.
Justin Kasper, 15, says that they have all learned valuable skills such as motorbike riding, fencing, Health and Safety, and general farming knowledge from their Agricultural Science classes and Young Farmers events.
“Fieldays is also a big day for us and we will be part of a learning group,” says Sarah.
In early 2021, Justin and Boyd signed up for the pairs competition of the Junior Young Farmers Waikato/BOP, and after beating 11 other teams, went through as one of five pairs to the final.
The college were proud when their boys came third overall.
Tasks included putting a chain on a chainsaw, cheese tasting quiz, identifying diseases and pests, and explaining the dairy process from cow to bottle.
The majority of the teenagers involved are exploring whether they would like a career in farming, and many already have part time jobs in the industry.
“Our Young Farmers group is a great success in the college,” says Mr Saunders.
“After gypsy day, we get a lot of new students, and the group creates connections between likeminded students and their families.”