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Scholarship Programme Provides A Helping Hand For Trainee Farmers

The long-term relationship between Telford and Jeff Farm has seen hundreds of young people realise their first steps in a farming career.

The long-term relationship between Telford and Jeff Farm has been mutually beneficial, firstly, in helping hundreds of young people realise their study and job goals by taking their first steps in a farming career.

As well as this, Jeff Farm scholarships provided to students make a considerable contribution to the running of Telford, with many recipients using the financial assistance to pay accommodation and living costs during their time at the rural campus.

Jeff Farm is a 2,424ha farm owned and managed by The Salvation Army. Its purpose was designated in 1952 when the farm’s owner Edmund Jeff put the farm into a trust so it could be utilised in training young people for a career in the New Zealand agricultural industry.

Located on the Old Coach Road between Mataura and Clinton in Southland, Jeff Farm is highly regarded as a top southern farm and has been managed for more than 20 years by well-known farmers John and Liz Chittock, for The Salvation Army Trust Board.

In 2017, the farm won the Silver Fern Farms Sheep Industry Trainer of the Year award at the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Sheep Industry Awards, recognising it as the best farm in the country for training the next generation of farmers.

The farm runs its own cadet scheme, taking on five cadets every year to train. In addition to this, the productivity of the farm allows for the facilitation of the scholarship scheme: The Edmund Sanderson Jeff Farm Training Award, assisting many more young people in their pursuit of farming as a career.

Simon Glennie, Chairman of the Jeff Farm Board has been on the board for around 18 years, and involved in interviewing the scholarship applicants for many years as well. The board provides oversight of the farm to assist the Salvation Army with policies, strategic direction and management of the property.

Telford’s programmes teaching entry-level farming skills are perfectly aligned to the original vision of Jeff Farm’s founder Edmund Jeff, who wanted young people to be able to learn the basics, then achieve a career in farming. Mr Glennie said Telford’s job in training young farmers is really important, in giving students a basic skill-set, providing them with enough knowledge to give them a foot up onto the first rung of the ladder in farming.

Mr Glennie clearly finds a great deal of reward in taking part in the selection process of young people who have challenges and obstacles to overcome. The Jeff Farm scholarships assist them to achieve their study goals more easily and with less stress. Having brought up a family of his own and with university-aged children, Mr Glennie says it’s allowed him to relate to the applicants well, and have a good understanding of where they’re at.

He said they’re looking for young people who are really keen to get a start in agriculture, but may be struggling in some way. It might be financial, it could be their health or another reason. Unlike other funds the Jeff Farm Scholarship programme deliberately focuses on providing for young people where there is a need, said Mr Glennie.

“We’re not the same as every other fund, we’re not looking for the (academic) top ten percent, We look for those who have a need. And where we see a need, we will try and help, that’s what we’re here to do”.

He said while the need varies between years, the average annual allocation to Telford students has exceeded $30K/yr since 2010.

Mr Glennie says they only get about fifteen minutes to interview each student. He said the students are often really nervous, some have no farming background whatsoever, and they’re still settling into student life. As the interviewers, they attempt to put the student at ease and focus on understanding their particular situation. In that short amount of interview time, he says “they try to look at the size of the obstacles they have, and look behind the façade, to meet the real person and the real challenges they’re facing”.

“I find it really rewarding, meeting the young people, it’s great to hear their stories, and between 16 to 18 years they grow up a lot. Many are young kids who’ve just left home for the first time and they’re still feeling their way”.

Along with the rewards of the role, Mr Glennie says there’s a real sense of responsibility within the board to fairly allocate the scholarship money to the best of their abilities. “We’re really happy to continue providing where the needs are”.

The biggest buzz is when the board receives a letter from a student who wants to acknowledge the difference the scholarship has made in their lives, and it’s evident they’re doing well. “Getting the odd message of thanks is particularly rewarding” he said.

2020 Scholarship recipient Venessa Kotze immigrated to New Zealand from South Africa during her childhood. She is completing a Level 3 Certificate in Agriculture and found out about Telford by attending a Taster Camp last year. She said it was pretty good. “I love farming so I came back this year to study”.

Venessa had never had anything to do with farming until two years ago. She loves the people aspect of Telford. She said the tutors are great, the other students and rest of the Telford staff as well. She really enjoys the work experience students get the opportunity to participate in, saying “it’s a taste of actually working on real farms”.

Being a recipient of a Jeff Farm scholarship makes a big difference to Venessa, with her parents not in a position to help her - one parent has heath issues, so the scholarship allows her to finish her year without debt. “We get fees free, but this will help pay accommodation costs. It really helps, it takes a big load off my shoulders, I really appreciate the scholarship”.

Venessa is also considering doing another year of study and says if she comes back to do the second year, she won’t have to worry about having a debt from the first year.

Omni Koehler hadn’t come from a farming background either, and tried work experience on a farm while still at High School. She really enjoyed it, so her Ag teacher suggested Telford as a next step in training for farming.

“I really enjoy learning the practical side of it, I haven’t grown up on a farm so it’s good experience, learning off all the tutors who have all these skills to teach you”.

Being a Jeff Farm Scholarship recipient, Omni says it takes a lot of stress off her family. She didn’t qualify for a student allowance or loan, so she’ll have to pay her parents back and with a younger sister still at home she’s aware of her needs as well. “The Jeff Farm Scholarship takes a lot of that pressure off me”.

Omni’s considering her options for next year. She’s discovering new interests during her course and the latest component completed was Mechanics, which she loved. She may go into the workforce, or is considering further study in the Mechanical Engineering field.

Mana Te Ohaere is also a recipient of a Jeff Farm scholarship this year. He’s completing a NZ Certificate in Farming Systems and Equipment (Level 3). He found out about Telford through contacts at school and took the opportunity to enrol.

Even though working outside in the cold of the southern winter has its challenges, he says he’s enjoyed meeting new people and having the opportunity to network in farming circles, making important connections through the work experience on his programme.

He’s especially enjoyed the farm vehicle component of his course, gaining the knowledge and skills of basic maintenance and the operation of Agri-vehicles and mechanised equipment commonly found in farming.

Mana said he was relieved when he found out about his scholarship, as it will help pay for accommodation costs during his course. He’ll finish his qualification with less debt; he hopes to be out and working in farming as soon as he graduates at the end of the year.

Telford’s Taster Camps allow students to discover what it’s all about before making a commitment to study, providing a hands-on experience of living and learning at Telford. The 5-day camps also provide students transitioning directly from high school, the chance to meet and make friends with other enrolling students.

The 2020 camps are scheduled to take place on:

  • 29 September - 03 October, 2020
  • 08 - 12 December, 2020

To register for a Taster Camp, please email your expression of interest to debbie.rankin@sit.ac.nz.

Programme Manager Debbie Rankin said the management and staff at Telford have had a busy eighteen months with the investment into developing the campus, and they’re really looking forward to an exciting 2021.

For further information on applying for a Jeff Farm scholarship, go to: www.https://jefffarm.salvationarmy.org.nz/agricultural-scholarships

Jeff Farm information source: www.https://jefffarm.salvationarmy.org.nz/agricultural-scholarships

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