Girls urged to have a go at farming

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Year 7 Southland Girls' High School pupils gather around a cow at Cyningthorpe farm as part of a programme to introduce young people to the primary industries. PHOTO: NZYF

A ‘GIRLS can do anything’ attitude has been the driving force for one young woman to get more girls interested in farming.

From crutching sheep to the science of meat and milk production, 16-year-old TeamAg member Aimee Paterson is taking part in a major national project to encourage Year 6-8 pupils to get into farming.

The Bigger Better initiative, spearheaded by Aimee, saw 160 Year 7 pupils from Southland Girls’ High School visit two farms to learn practical skills and farming theory.

For some pupils, it was their first time visiting a farm.

“It’s been such an eye-opening experience. A number of the younger students didn’t realise the skill involved in producing food and fibre.”

One group of pupils visited Farm Fresh South, a company which sold raw milk from a small herd of cows.

“The trip enabled the girls to see the grass to glass process of milk production.

“They had so many questions after going into the paddock to see the herd, touring the milk shed, and sampling the milk.”

The programme was funded by the Red Meat Profit Partnership and delivered by NZ Young Farmers (NZYF).

Fourth generation Cyningthorpe farm owner Nigel King said he got on board with the programme when the school was struggling to find farms to take the girls.

He was “blown away” by the questions asked.

“I was gobsmacked, they’d obviously done a lot of preparation. I just told them no question is a silly question, if you don’t know, you don’t know.”

More than happy to “muck around with the sheep”, the pupils asked questions about what different dogs were used for, how animals were weighed, and what was involved in shearing.

Mr King said the industry had been tough for women to get into, but there were a lot of people willing to take girls on.

“There’s no reason why females can’t do it. Just ‘cos you’re a girl, don’t take no for an answer, keep trying until someone takes you on.

“Women aren’t afraid to put their hands up when they don’t know something. Men don’t often ask.”

Mr King said his daughter was one of the best staff he had ever had work on his farm.

“My daughter is better than me around stock, her mannerisms and everything are just great.”

The programme prompted a wave of new sign-ups to TeamAg.

NZYF territory manager Amber Mitchell said the programme was designed to get the primary industries on the radar for pupils and make them aware of career opportunities.

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