Round up . . . Ellise O'Neil helps with the mustering for weaning at Omarama Station. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Teenagers eyeing up a farming future are being presented with the perfect opportunity to learn on the job.

Growing Future Farmers (GFF) offers students a two-year, zero-fees course, while they live on-farm – and is now being offered in North Otago.

Area liaison manager Ping Horn said a pilot of the programme had been operating in the North Island for two years, and this was the first year it had run in the South.

Mrs Horn had three students under her care, based in the Omarama and Kurow area, with three others near Winton. There were 57 year one students nationally this year.

“I look after their pastoral care, and am the liaison between the farm trainer and the student to make sure that everyone’s on the same page and happy, and that the students are doing their paperwork and logging their hours, and yeah, just their mum, really.”

The course is for school leavers who want to go sheep, beef or deer farming.

The students are provided with accommodation, which includes meat, power and Wi-Fi, and get paid $180 a week, as an allowance, she said.

On completion of the two years, students will leave with a Level 3 NZQA qualification, and two trained dogs – a heading dog and a huntaway.

Pup in training . . . Jake Faulkner, who is based at Berwen Station in Omarama, with his heading pup Lily. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

“They do all these other courses like, last week my students went down to Winton and did a three-day fencing course, and a chainsaw safety course and they’ve got pups and they do pup training.

“There’s quite a lot involved in it.”

The students get a heading pup at the start of the first year, which the farmer pays for, including its related costs.

“It doesn’t really belong to the student until they’ve graduated that first year, and so then they do these pup trainings every three weeks. Then in August they get the huntaway pup and they carry on training that,” Mrs Horn said.

“They leave with two trained pups – a heading dog and a huntaway, and they’re work-ready, really.”

The three locally-based students are at Omarama and Berwen Stations, near Omarama, and Awakino Station, near Kurow, and have come from varied backgrounds.

“One’s come from Papanui High, and never really been on a farm much. One’s come from dairying – grown up in dairy farming but wants to go sheep and beef, and one’s been on a sheep and beef farm most of her life,” Mrs Horn said.

As well as more students wanting to take part in the GFF programme, the hunt was also on for more farmers willing to pass on their knowledge.

“We’re after farmers who would like to take on a student,” she said.

The training year began mid-January and ran until mid-December. The aim was to have most training sessions regionally based and using regional resources.

Sausage skills . . . Growing Future Farmers students are (from left) Brooklyn Scott (Awakino Station) Ellise O’Neil (Omarama Station), and Jake Faulkner (Berwen Station), with sausages they made during a butchery component of their training. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Mrs Horn said she got involved in the programme because she loved helping out and had always been involved in “rural life”. She and her husband were based at Otekaieke and ran Waitaki Spraying. She also worked casually at the Kurow Farmlands store.

“There’s a real gap in the industry for young people coming into the sheep and beef industry, so it’s really good to try and help that along.”

The minimum requirements for students to enrol in the programme were a restricted driver licence, and preferably Level 2 NCEA, although allowances could be made.

There was also an awareness of dyslexia being more prevalent in farmers than the mainstream population, and this could be taken into account, she said.

“That shouldn’t be a barrier to any students interested.”

Courses run as part of the programme were also available to those who weren’t necessarily involved in GFF, Mrs Horn said.

“If there’s other young people around that aren’t on the Growing Future Farmers course, they could pay to come and do a handpiece course in shearing, or they could pay to get their GrowSafe stuff.”