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Farmers Celebrate Stories Of Change With Extension 350

Northland farmers have come together to celebrate their stories of change at Extension 350 (E350) recognition dinners held around the region.

Recognition events have been held across Kerikeri, Maungaturoto and in Whangārei as the five-and-a-half-year Extension 350 programme concludes, providing a platform for farmers to share the positive changes they have made as a result of being involved.

Speaking at the Whangārei event held at No. 8, Bay of Islands dairy farmer Mark Clunie says there has been no part of his business which hasn’t been positively affected by the Extension 350 programme.

“E350 has been an absolutely awesome journey for us. Prior to becoming involved, we were farming on the backfoot. E350 has helped us understand and do well in the things we can control and helped us cope with the things which we can’t.”

“Knowledge has been a key factor, and we’re able to see the dividends financially, finally”, he says.

The farmer-lead, farmer-focussed Extension 350 programme launched in 2016 with the intention of getting 350 farmers involved. The initiative aims to assist Northland farmers in achieving their goals and objectives including profitability, environmental sustainability and wellbeing.

Ruawai farmer Luke Oud shared his story of success, growing his heard of 200 cows to a heard of 520 after finding out about the Extension 350 programme at a field day in Kaiwaka.

“It’s been amazing to see how you can structure a business to make it work for you, rather than control you.”

“It never used to be that your wellbeing was important, the farm always had to come first. Having been through the E350 programme we feel we can take farming so far now, we’re so into it, it’s amazing” he says.

The success stories shared across the events are a reflection of the collaborative effort between agencies and regional farmers to progress the Extension 350 programme over the past six years, says Project Lead, Luke Beehre.

“The collaboration seen in E350 is something which is unique in New Zealand. Having funders Dairy NZ, Beef+LambNZ, Ministry of Primary Industries, Northland Regional Council and Northland Inc come together to achieve a common set of goals which benefit both the farmers and the region has been fantastic.”

“In addition, the premise of E350 has always been a farmer-lead and farmer-focussed programme, developing networks of support across the clusters. The stories shared by our farmers at the recognition events showcase how much tangible change they have been able to achieve with this support” he says.

With an original goal of engaging 350 farmers across the Northland region, the programme peaked at 379 farmers involved, 111% of the projected programme target.

The participation result and stories of success are fantastic given the turbulence of the past two years, says Beehre.

“The programme has had to adapt as we navigated Covid-19 and climatic challenges. However, E350’s relevance and applicability have been further reinforced through these factors and our farmer-lead and farmer-focussed approach” Beehre says.

“The programme’s triple bottom line lens of improved profitability, environmental sustainability and farmer wellbeing mean that farmers come out of the E350 programme having progressed towards their goals and with the skills and network of support to help them continue to adapt to the changing farming landscape.”

Despite the Extention350 programme coming to a close, Beehre says the journey of change isn’t going to stop now. And that sentiment is echoed by those farmers who were able to take part.

“We want to see something like this continue in the future. There are so many amazing things which have come from it” says Oud.

© Scoop Media

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