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Farmer to oversee the creation of Auckland education farm

Hauraki Plains dairy farmer elected to oversee the creation of Auckland educational farm

A respected Hauraki Plains dairy farmer will lead the board overseeing the development of a new educational farm in Auckland.

Julie Pirie has been elected to chair the five-member Donald Pearson Farm Board.

The 74-hectare dairy farm in South Auckland was gifted to NZ Young Farmers by the late Donald Pearson last year.

Mrs Pirie, who farms 850 cows with her husband Brian at Ngatea, said she didn’t need convincing to take on the role.

“I’m thrilled,” she said.

“I’m passionate about promoting farming and connecting school children with the land and where their food comes from.”

“It’s a great fit with my interests,” she said.

The property will continue to operate as a dairy farm until June 2019.

“That gives us 15 months to develop a vision and strategy of what we’d like the educational farm to look like, and to start implementing it,” she said.

“Analysing options to partner with different organisations and businesses to help achieve our plans will be a key focus.”

The farm’s location provides an unrivalled opportunity to get urban students excited about the career prospects in agri-food sector.

Currently, 39 per cent of all high school students in New Zealand live in Auckland.

“We really want to use technology to convince secondary school students that the primary industry is a viable career path,” Mrs Pirie said.

Julie Pirie is a former NZ Young Farmers member who has a Bachelor of Agricultural Science from Massey University.

“I was a member of Tauhei Young Farmers, which was one of the largest NZ Young Farmers clubs in the country at the time,” she recalls.

Each spring, the Fonterra Shareholders Councillor opens her farm to local school children, who each raise a calf for pet day.

“For 12 weeks the children come to our farm and feed, brush and care for their calves and get them ready for calf club day,” said Mrs Pirie.

“It gives them an understanding of farm life and the importance of the dairy industry to New Zealand.”

Mrs Pirie praised NZ Young Farmers for assembling a board with such a diverse range of skills.

The other four members on the board are Tiaki Hunia, who’s the general manager of Maori Strategy at Fonterra; the principal of Manurewa High School Pete Jones; a friend of the Pearson family Bryan Cartelle and the chief executive of NZ Young Farmers Terry Copeland.

The board held its first meeting last week.

Funding partnerships with the Red Meat Profit Partnership and DairyNZ already enable NZ Young Farmers to work with hundreds of schools, to showcase and promote career opportunities in the agri-food sector.

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