The project starts with participants’ feet firmly planted in front of a computer. The four-month course takes a blended learning approach with the programme being delivered both via supported online modules and face-to-face workshops. The programme ends with a visit to each farm to check and complete the individual farm plans on the final days of the course.
“The course came about after local farmers started grappling with their responsibilities to manage freshwater. They wanted to get a step ahead and to work with us to develop a plan that was relevant to the challenges of farming in West Coast environments,” said Lyn Carmichael, MPI’s Rural Communities and Farming Support Senior Regional Advisor.
“By being adaptable we’ve come up with a course that will feed into change on-farm by providing farmers with an opportunity to work alongside other farmers to discuss common issues and find the most workable solutions. I really want to acknowledge all the collective mahi and enthusiasm by so many groups to get us this far.”
The West Coast Rural Advisory Group, Westland Milk Products, DairyNZ, West Coast Regional Council and primary sector organisations have embraced the project. DWC has come onboard to fund the face-to-face component to be delivered by Dairy Training, and the Food & Fibre Centre of Vocational Excellence is supporting the online learning component developed by ECampus.
DWC Project Manager Helen Wilson said it was exciting to support the pilot project.
“It's also great to see Te Wheke Digital Hub resources, recently installed within the Whataroa Community Hub, being put to use immediately.”
The course kicked-off on 17 March at the Whataroa Community Hub. It sits well with the hubs focus on connecting local community and improving digital literacy, something that attracted MPI support through a $30,000 grant last year.
Interest in the course has extended beyond the local community, and there are plans underway to make this training more widely available in settings across the West Coast.