National initiative exposing rural lives to urban minds

National initiative exposing rural lives to urban minds

Sam Waugh runs New Zealand Young Farmers Donald's Farm in Whitford, which is about 30k southeast of Auckland. Last year the farm hosted about 900 primary and secondary school visitors. 

The aim is to build up to 5,000 a year and this year Dairy NZ is supporting Donald's Farm Open Day scheduled for March 10, 2024. It's part of the National Open Farms Initiative where all types of farms throughout New Zealand host members of the public to see farming first-hand.

Waugh, who transitioned from a commerce background into the pastoral embrace of Donald's Farm, brings a unique perspective to the world of farming education. 

"We can see the Sky Tower from our house. It's a good reminder of what we're doing and the purpose of Donald's Farm around connecting people with farming." 

His vision is to reshape urban perceptions of farming by educating the young, aiming to touch the minds of 5,000 school children each year. The charm of Donald's Farm is not lost on its young visitors. Waugh shares an amusing observation that, regardless of age, "one of the first things that they always comment on is around the [amount of] poo." 

This light-hearted revelation is a testament to the impact of hands-on learning experiences that Donald's Farm provides. Waugh's commitment to the environment also shines through as he discusses his efforts towards sustainability. 

"We've really put a bit of focus around our environmental sustainability on the farm," he says, highlighting the extensive native planting projects and the development of a native tree nursery. 

This initiative not only contributes to the ecosystem but also serves as an educational tool, further integrating conservation into the farm's ethos. The upcoming Open Farms event on March 10th, promises to be a milestone in fostering community spirit and appreciation for agriculture. 

As Waugh warmly extends an invitation to the public, he emphasises the proximity of Donald's Farm to the city, offering a convenient gateway for urbanites to experience the rural world. 

Waugh underscores the importance of funding for the expansion of educational programs, acknowledging the eagerness of schools and the barrier that finances pose. 

"The biggest thing holding us back really is around the funding side of it," he laments, expressing hope for future support to bridge the urban-rural divide. 

Listen to the full chat between Sam Waugh and Dominic George above.

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