Wednesday, 26 June 2019 07:55

Mentor-led project gaining ground

Written by  Pam Tipa
Luke Beehre. Luke Beehre.

The Northland farmer to farmer learning programme Extension 350 is attracting nationwide attention.

Project Lead Luke Beehre of Northland Inc says has just recently met with a Tatua director who is looking at how they could apply a similar model to their dairy cooperative.

He has also had interest from Hawkes Bay Regional Council and even an Auckland based general practice provider with 170 medical centres looking at the model of peer to peer learning. Beehre says that is just some of the discussions he has had just in the last couple of months.

Some of their partner organisations like the Ministry for Primary Industries are also looking at what they can do with that extension sphere.

The idea for Extension 350 (E350) originated out of Northland from discussions at field days and partner farms.

Farmer led and farmer focused, E350 kicked off in 2016 and is approaching half way. 

The intention is to get 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, Beehre 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.”

E350 aims to have 10 clusters each having five target farmers, 5-10 mentors and then about five associates. Seven of those clusters are dairy farms. Currently they have 33 dairy target farmers and 40-50 mentor dairy farmers as some target farmers have two mentors. There are also about 100 associates.

There are more opportunities to be associate farmers. They “share the journey” that the target farmers are on and also have the opportunity to share back about what they are doing.

About 44 farmers turned out to a dairy field day at Awanui last week (June 17) and about 33 of those were dairy farmers. Very positive feedback is being received from the farmers.

“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,” Beehre says.

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