Extension 350 in good shape as half-time approaches
June 14, 2019
Extension 350, the long-term “farmer to farmer learning” programme, is approaching the half-way 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.
Taking stock of the progress so far, Project Lead Luke Beehre of Northland Inc highlighted the overall positive impact this uniquely Northland extension programme is having.
“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.
“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.”
He added that E350 was proving a “dynamic learning process”, not just for farmers, but for mentors and the project, too. “We’re all undergoing a journey of change,” he said. “We’re all learning, reflecting and challenging ourselves.
“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.”
Mr Beehre said E350 was also on course to have their intended number of farmers – 350 – involved across Northland during the coming months. “We’re on target to achieve that figure by Christmas.”
This year will see seven public field days delivered across the region, with 10 planned for next year.
The field days allow farmers to unlatch their gates, showcase E350 in action and share something of their journey along the way. The most recent was held at Agnew’s Farm in Whakapara; Tye’s Dairy Farm, 194 Kumi Road, Awanui, will host the next on Monday, 17 June (10am for a 10.30am start). The final field day of 2019 is scheduled for the last quarter of the year.
“The engagement with the field days has been positive,” added Mr Beehre. “It’s been an opportunity for farmers to see where they’ve come from and where they’re going, and to share some good stories in the process.
“It’s important for farmers to recognise that they’re on a journey, that change is under way and all their hard work and effort is proving worthwhile.”
He added that it was not too late for farmers to get on board with E350 as associate farmers across the region. “The majority of the farmers involved in the programme are all at different stages,” he explained. “Some have been involved for two years, some for a bit longer, while others are just starting out.
“There’s still an opportunity to join E350 and be a part of this exciting and rewarding journey.”