Don’t fence me in

Otago Polytechnic/Te Pūkenga is widening the agricultural horizons of ākonga (learners) by letting them learn the ropes on a Central Otago high country farm.

Rising from the banks of the Mata-au/Clutha River up to the foothills of the Mt Pisa Range, Tinwald Farm plays a crucial role when it comes to providing practical, hands-on agricultural learning for Otago Polytechnic ākonga.

The farm gives learners the opportunity to undertake everyday agricultural tasks that enable them to not only meet academic requirements but, more importantly, gain the experiences and knowledge that will allow them to step into employment in pastoral farming/rural-based workplaces.

Otago Polytechnic’s High Country Farming programme, delivered from its Central Campus in Cromwell, offers a New Zealand Certificate in Agriculture (Farming Systems; Level 3) and a NZ Certificate in Operational Skills (Infrastructure; Level 3).

“This Central Otago-based qualification is unique as it’s the only farming training programme in New Zealand with a high country flavour,” says lecturer Roger Williams.

Recognising that farming courses could not be effectively delivered solely in a classroom, Otago Polytechnic signed a memorandum of understanding with Tinwald Farm, a 744ha property between Cromwell and Wānaka that runs sheep and beef and also grows pinot noir grapes.

In 2020, the farm opened its gates to Otago Polytechnic ākonga, who spend more than half of their academic time at the farm.

“Tinwald Farm, and its staff, offer students plenty of scope and opportunities with livestock, technology and practices that are at the leading edge of where the agriculture industry is heading,” Williams says.

He says there is strong demand nationally for passionate people who want to work with livestock in the farming industry and those who complete the course are highly sought after.

“The farm provides the students with a unique learning experience. Tinwald Farm has a willingness to explore new practices. This includes good stewardship of land and resources, as well as looking at new or different breeds that not only increase farm productivity but also improve product quality beyond the gate.”

Tinwald Farm owners Amanda and Adrian Currie enjoy sharing their philosophy of producing natural food using the latest tools, while keeping traditional values at the core of their operations.

“Agriculture, like many industries, faces many challenges,” Amanda says. “The production of high-quality food is as important as it ever was, but equally important is the protection of the environment. Our industry will face increasing challenges over the coming years. We believe we must do our part to explore and address these concerns.”

As an employer, she knows how important it is to be able to attract people to the industry and retain them.

“We’re interested in showing students how farming is changing and responding to the issues that we all face. The future for farming will demand innovation. We also want to contribute to our local community, so working with Otago Polytechnic to provide a practical and positive on-farm learning experience for students is a perfect fit.”

  • Otago Polytechnic agricultural ākonga and lecturers, along with Tinwald Farm, were the subject of a recent Country Calendar episode that screened on 23 July. Visit to watch it.

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