The Government is co-investing in a $22 million programme aimed at reducing agricultural greenhouse gases and nitrate leaching, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has announced.
“Heading to Lincoln, and the South Island, is a new adventure,” says Annabelle. “I am so excited about going.” And she won’t be alone, as six other St Peter’s graduate students are on their way to Lincoln also.
Agriculture student numbers are burgeoning at St Peter’s and the school’s situation, right beside Owl Farm, may be playing a part.
“Ag was opened up to year nines last year,” says Annabelle, “And they have a new teacher this year and a whole new classroom – the numbers in the classes have exploded.”
Owl Farm runs a 405 cow dairy herd, alongside land set aside to run a range of diversifications aimed at providing alternative income streams and multiple learning opportunities for the students. “They have so many cool things going on,” says Annabelle.
“Grapes and bees, the dairy farm and Christmas trees, corn – you are learning a lot about a lot of different things which I think is really unique and different. There is always a doing, practical part; you could be out weeding the gardens, or planting new things, or you are trying out new things on the farm.”
As for Annabelle, you don’t have to look far to see why she has been drawn to agriculture as a career. Her family has a longstanding connection to the agricultural industry, with both of her parents involved, in various ways, throughout their careers.
Her mother, Rebecca McGuire, teaches agriculture and agribusiness at St Peter’s, and father, David McGuire, is a rural real estate agent, but both have been dairy farming in the past and ran a calf rearing business for a period in Australia.
St Peter’s also played a large part in providing the inspiration for Annabelle’s career choice.
“In my early days at St Peter’s I was always creative so I wanted to do design work. And then I also did business, and really enjoyed that. And then in Year 12 I thought I might make a bit of a change and go into agribusiness, and I loved it, it was so awesome. The school program is amazing, how it incorporates the farm and the horticulture they have there, and so I followed through and did that in Year 13 as well.”
The unique connection the school has with Owl Farm provides a rich learning opportunity for students.
“We did a lot of stuff on Owl Farm,” says Annabelle. “When I was doing Level 2 they had put their effluent pond in so we did a lot of looking at that and the new regulations, why they did it, how they did it. We went down to see the calves, dug up the soils and saw what soils were in different spots, and then last year Mum set up a Christmas tree business, to get all of the ag students from all levels involved.
“We also did an innovation this year and entered it into the Fieldays Innovation Awards. It was a sort of a stick with a strap on the end to hook around cattle’s noses in the yards when you tag or drench them. We got it made by the metal room and we practised using it on the farm. That was a lot of fun.
“Most weeks we were out on farm doing a farm walk or looking at something. You can be talking about it in class and then decide to go down and have a look. That opportunity is so cool. You can go see it, see how it works, what it does, and even try it.”
Serendipitously, Annabelle’s choice of subjects at school dovetailed neatly into one of the degrees Lincoln University offers.
“I was in lockdown and I said to Mum that I’d better find something to do with my life, she asked what my favourite subjects were, and I said I really loved agribusiness and design, and I liked maths, so something with ag and design would be good. I went to the Lincoln website and the second degree I saw was Agribusiness and Food Marketing, the papers it covers looked perfect.”
Annabelle also has a fresh appreciation for New Zealand’s agricultural sector in the wake of Covid.
“For me lockdown was a big eye-opener. What do we actually need, what is essential work, what is essential for us to function as a country? The dairy industry, that doesn’t stop, that just keeps going; we are still exporting and we are still providing for ourselves and a lot of other countries.”