Photo Gallery - Organic Training College

April 14th 2016 Establishment Class, Organic Training College, Lincoln University


A much smaller class this year so I took the opportunity to take them all to North Canterbury for a day and visit a couple of properties.  We checked out Ashley River Organics, an apple operation run by Mark and Annabel Raulston where we explored different varieties, impact of management, and directly selling to the consumer.  We also visited Gianni Prencipie at Field to Feast near Ohoka and the vegetable gardens he was growing there with his family.  Here students are using the Visual Soil Assessment technique to explore the properties of soil near the Organic Training College campus.

May 14th 2015 Establishment class, Organic Training College, Lincoln University


Again a great classof students this year and another challenge to squeeze in ideas about property and business management within timeframe.  This year our three field trips included visiting Karen Harley from Organic Farm NZ, an organic certifying agency, Jenny and Malcolm Lawrence and their crew at Cracker of a Nut, and here meeting organic broker Zoe Munn at Fresh Direct, South Island’s only distribution centre for fresh organic produce.  Students get a lot from this class as it brings together many production issues taught throughout rest of the year with realities of running a business.  Field trips are part of a diverse mix of activities including inside and outside group work, class work, and revision activities.


Sept 23, 24, 25  2014 MGMT 203 Farming Systems and Environment, Lincoln University

Guy Trafford asked me to speak to his class on alternatives.  I changed focus from last year to what farmers do to make their businesses and land more resilient and flexible.  Again using Stuart Hill’s typology of raising efficiencies, replacing resources, and redesigning business management and introduced students to principles of managing holistically.  Raising efficiencies is largely about working more closely with environment and ecosystem processes and helps change farmer’s perspectives on dealing with climatic events.  Secondly replacing resources or inputs is largely about challenging myths of technology by using livestock and living organisms to influence landscape function.  Thirdly redesigning business is rethinking business to improve communication, commitment, and creativity to meet consumer demands of food production and environmental health, while ensuring families stay on their land. Students enjoy the practical aspects I present like how soil surfaces influence productivity or what dung reveals about current and future health of livestock and whether an establishing weed is a problem or symptom of farm management.  I heard students had been talking about my lectures at the pub, an underrated learning environment.   


June 4th 2014 Establishment class Organic Training College

This is the last class for most of these students so today we played a game of cards to explore decision-making.  The card game I use mimics risk taking with cropping making it ideal for this class.  This year I had to combine two classes I ran last year into one with a third of the teaching hours so it was a challenge to cover business and property establishment principles.  This was reflected in class evaluations with half the class commenting they wanted more hours with the subject, and more on business training.  A number of comments said it was great it was at the end of the course because it brought everything together for them, yet it will not happen next year due to its focus on production rather than business.   Students love the field trips as they make contacts with real players in the organic industry around Christchurch and so have some faces when they start their businesses.  


May 2013 SFM class visit David and Pam Gardner, Waihaorunga, South Canterbury

My Oamaru sustainable farm management class visited David Gardner at Waihaorunga, in the hills west of Waimate.  David’s property is rolling hill country with steep gulleys in places and focuses on sheep and beef.  David’s secret to success is an extensive electric fence system and in the photo he is showing the students the fibreglass electric fence posts which cannot be pulled out of the ground.  David’s also practices pastoral sabbatical, leaving areas of the property ungrazed for up to a year while other parts are renovated with turnips and grasses.  He was trying many different types of pasture mixes to see what worked and had moved away from conventional fertilisers using biological brews and solids.  The property was well planted in shelter with more planned. 


2013 May Organic Class BIOS 273 Lincoln University

Roddy Hale’s class has a broad range of students, many doing viticulture.  I run through issues associated with livestock management on organic properties and emphasise how livestock can enhance environmental services.  As in previous years the class does a grazing laboratory organising either a mob of sheep or dairy cattle around a property, a very challenging exercise which highlights the complexity of farming while demonstrating there are ways and means of accommodating this complexity.   They are tested on what they learned; focusing on how any particular point was different to what they previously believed.  Many expressed surprise there were different ways of doing things than taught in other classes.  As usual some students raise points in disbelief only to be introduced to a world of information that is beyond mainstream sources which is also backed up by research and farmer observation.  My worry is many students leave university thinking they have all the answers when in fact what they need is to skills to listen beyond industry rhetoric and hear what farmers observe and experience.


2013 May Farming Systems and issues of Sustainable Land Use MGMT203/ERST204 Lincoln University

Guy Trafford in the Commerce Department offered me the opportunity to bring some new perspectives to his course.  I introduced Holistic Management concepts through Stuart Hill’s theory of what farmers do when they are no longer making money.  There are three actions farmers engage when they are looking to improve profitability; increase efficiencies, substitute inputs, and when these no longer work, redesign their business.  In Holistic Management terms, increasing efficiencies challenges farmers to look more closely at landscape function (water and mineral cycles, energy flow, and community dynamics), getting these right reduces wastage.  It is the Tools in Holistic Management which assist when replacing inputs, can technology be substituted by living organisms, how can grazing and animal impact reduce the need for inputs?  In redesigning business I introduced the holistic context and decision-testing to the group, as well as the solar chain or production and weak link to prioritise spending and investment.  The photo shows the class visiting with Dr Charles Merfeld, Director of the Future Farming Centre based at the BHU looking at trials to thwart potato psylid.  This is the first class I’ve ever taught to where male and female students sat either side of the classroom!


April 2013 SFM class visit Maurice and Neroli Hellewell, Ikawai, South Canterbury

My Oamaru sustainable farm management class visited with organic farmer and marketer Maurice Hellewell at Ikawai.  Maurice has a lifetime of doing things differently since doing organics by default in the mid 80s and failing at it.  Since then he worked at a variety of farming roles until he had the opportunity to return to his farm and do organics properly.  He chased up many ideas around soil health and livestock production and now runs a tidy business primarily growing beef cattle and grain.  The group seen here are talking grazing and I could show them a classic example of how the pasture being grazed not only had green leaf for cattle but plenty of litter in the sward to feed the soil.  Over the years Maurice’s soils have improved so much he irrigates a third to what he used to.


April 2013 Business Class for Certificate of Organic Horticulture

This Organic Training College class changed from emphasising marketing to starting a business instead as this is why the students are doing this anyway.  I teach it to Certificate in Organic Horticultural Production students, the main course at Organic Training College.  As usual a small number do this as it is not compulsory so only those interested in business come to class each Thursday.  We still had our annual visit to Jim Small at Sierra Foods where he told us about his business history and the issues associated with keeping his business going in a competitive environment such as Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMGC).  Students his story interesting because he brings a different perspective to the meaning of organic; he comes at it from a foodie perspective.  As he says, most of his customers probably don’t know or care whether his product is organic.  This is a good reality check for students about how difficult working and educating the public is.  Unfortunately this is the last year this class runs due to funding cuts.


March 2013 SFM class Oamaru

This year my course was hosted by Under the Kakanui’s Women in Farming group from Oamaru,  This course differed from the Lincoln based course as it was four days longer.  This allowed me to present Holistic Planned Grazing and Holistic Financial Planning techniques into the course, plus several other aspects associated with Holistic Management such as Richardson Rainfall Analysis.  Then group here is doing VSA, visual soil analysis as part of the soils section, exploring soil structure, colour, earthworm counts, etc.  Much of what the course covers involves regenerating the soil, helping students understand the difference between total and effective rainfall as the two are seldom the same; more rainfall which stays on the property the greater resilience to events such as drought.  Soil carbon sequestration has a pivotal role in improving soil moisture capacity and fertility by feeding soil microbes.  It is this invisible unpaid labour force which is one of the secrets to sustainable farming.

October 31,2012  Papakiao Hall, North Otago.  Seminar on Sustainable Farming

As a means of getting my Certificate of Sustainable Farm Management into the wider community, the Under the Kakanui WIF (Women In Farming) group organised for me to hold a seminar bringing together many of the elements that make Holistic Management successful.  The group enjoyed the day and a common complaint was where to look for new ideas as the traditional agencies always promote status quo rather than real innovation.  The day covered how the environment works and what tools livestock farmers can use to enhance landscape function, especially cheap options.  I also talked about budgeting and the importance of profit first, then other expenses as a way of lifting returns on investment.  I also talked about decision-making, how to improve it and reap benefits from a systematic approach to exploring the outcomes of farm actions, spending, and policies.  An important part of the process is monitoring of actions and knowing what to look for to ensure management remain proactive instead of reactive. 

August 2012 Sustainable Farm Management course reunion

Students decided to get together a year on from the first course I ran.  They visited Michelle and husband Graeme at their Springston property to check out the developments since moving there a year ago.  The ground conditions were very wet but we wondered about looking at the hazelnut orchard, woodlots, pastures, veggie garden, chooks and cattle.  With students from all three courses attending there was a lot of discussion about animal production and health, soil health and horticultural production, especially for small farms.  Some of last year’s students had gone on to do other courses focusing on more practical aspects of farming but believed doing my course first had brought the tools of critical thinking and planning to any property development.  Even though they had to pay for the course, the money they’ve saved from thinking and planning through long term consequences rather than charging in with projects was worth thousands.  The students will continue to meet and draw on the resources within the group.


June 2012 Sustainable Farm Management course

Students like this course because they learn about different types of livestock and cropping practices, a solid grounding in basic financial and business knowledge, and how to improve soil by biological means.  The group visited John Gator and Michele Cherry at Stone Circle Organics to learn about successfully running a small farm supplying veggies (see picture) using a box scheme.  They also visited larger cropping and livestock operations including Matt Henderson at his family’s biodynamic property Milmore Downs who mill their own flour, and innovative farmer Roger Beattie to check out his Pitt Island Wild Sheep and his marketing plans for organic wool.  I had my skills as a tutor professionally evaluated in class.  The report highlighted my many skills including; a lesson plan that catered for different learning styles and multiple intelligences, seamless and logical transition between activities, excellent progression from the general to the specific and sound recognition and incorporation of prior learning, receptive to additional information supplied by students and good use of anecdotes to enrich the lesson.  Students were motivated, attentive, and actively engaged in the lesson. 


May 2012 Principles of Organic Production (Property Establishment) class

Students enjoy this class because of all the field trips and interesting lectures which involve games, activities, and videos.  It teaches the importance of planning by introducing students to a wide variety of considerations when establishing an organic business.   Because I teach it at the end of the year long certificate course it helps bring things together for students.  Here the students are visiting Karen Harley and viewing her organic garden.  Karen is a local administrator for certification agency NZ Organic so students have the opportunity to learn more about the differences between organic certification agencies.  Students also visited Fresh Direct Wholesalers and Jenny and Malcolm Lawrence at Cracker of a Nut.    


April 2012 Marketing Class visiting makers of Cyclops and Bliss Yoghurts - Sierra Foods

This class probably has the biggest influence on what certificate of organic horticulture students grow and whether they’ll become commercial organic growers.  Growing something does not result in making a business from it and this class is the only time in their course they get exposed to business ideas and principles.  Students comment an important insight from this class is rethinking the implications of growing crops from a commercial perspective.  Meeting people who were running organic businesses and hearing their stories is an important part of the class.  The students are talking with Jim Small at his Sierra Foods factory where he makes Cyclops and Bliss organic yoghurt range.  From people like Jim the class learn the importance of image, food quality, and customer relationships.  Students also learn practice the realities of running businesses and observe their own responses.   One lesson I teach involves a family card game where the principle is not about the crops they grow but making their business viable while dealing with constant unexpected change. 


April 12 Organic Class BIOS 273 Lincoln University

Again I taught into ecology lecturer Roddy Hale’s organic production class.  The students come from a variety of backgrounds; some not even aware ruminants have four stomachs.  My two lectures and grazing lab explore organic livestock production and bring in concepts of Holistic Management linking ecology to farming to enhance environment.  Comments from the classes included: “I never thought increasing stocking density could improve pasture growth and quality”, “I have always been taught to watch for animal health but never the signs associated with dung”, and “Using worm juice is a completely organic process with very little capital involved, it is extremely cost effective way to fertilise pastures”.   The grazing planning exercise takes students beyond feed budgeting to demonstrate the effects of environment and social factors when planning moves of grazing livestock.  It helps students appreciate the many things farmers weigh up when grazing and the importance of planning as a tool to address issues before they become a problem for the business.  Students are pictured in the grazing lab.


March 2012 Sustainable Farm Management course

This course developed from last year and was run on weekend to encourage lifestyle block owners and students to attend instead of the week.  Here students are measuring brix levels and comparing grasses to vegetables and fruits at the BHU.  This group of students visited several lifestyle block properties to explore and see demonstrations of sustainable farming and living on a small scale.  They got the chance to question last year’s students on what they are doing and got out of last year’s course.  Students liked it for the variety of production and financial information as well as exploring issues on their own property.