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Extension 350 Annual Report Exceeds Expectations On Home Stretch

Northland Inc’s Extension 350 programme continues to make positive change within Northland’s farming community as it enters its final 12 months, exceeding its original target of 350 farmers involved in the project.

The 2020/21 Annual Report released earlier this year highlights the exceeding of the goal, with the programme peaking at circa 379 farmers involved, 111% of the projected programme target.

The farmer-lead, farmer-focussed Extension 350 (E350) launched in 2016 with the intention of getting 350 farmers involved across a 5-year programme. The initiative aims to assist Northland farmers in achieving their goals and objectives including profitability, environmental sustainability and wellbeing.

The participation result is fantastic given the turbulence of the past year says Project Lead Luke Beehre.

“It’s been something of a rollercoaster year for the programme as we navigated Alert Level changes and climatic challenges. However, E350’s relevance and applicability have been further reinforced throughout the past 12 months with our farmer-lead and farmer-focussed approach” Beehre says.

With the last groups of sheep and beef clusters on track to finish by the end of 2021, and the final three dairy clusters projected to complete the programme by June 2022, tangible change has been created within the Northland farming community, 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.”

A highlight of the 2020/21 financial year was the integration of funding initiatives through Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures, which allowed for a refocused and resourced associate farmer engagement strategy along with a more in-depth ongoing and end of project evaluation.

As the E350 project enters its final year, it’s the ability to accurately and thoroughly evaluate the traction and challenges of the project which becomes increasingly important, says Beehre: “We’ve seen remarkable change to the farming landscape during the project tenure to date. Despite at times being fatigued and knee deep in mud through the challenges faced, farmers are remarkably optimistic and continue to look towards the future with hope and expectation. It’s this tenacity which has allowed the E350 project to continue making positive gains within the Northland farming community.”

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