Waipaoa Cadets Trust turning 10

CADETS AT THE READY: (from left) George Whitehead, Logan McClelland, Katie Herries, Jeffrey Marshall, Zak Carmichael, Cameron Hudson, Jonah Daunton, Cameron Rowden, Sam Wright and Jim Ashworth. Photo supplied
FENCER: Jim Ashworth gives it his all in the competition at the Mystery Creek Fielddays. Photo supplied
RIDING: Jonah Daunton out on the station. Photo supplied

THE longevity and success of the soon-to-be 10 year-old Waipaoa Station Farm Cadet Training Trust speaks volumes.

It is fiercely competitive to get into the two-year agricultural training programme which is run on Waipaoa Station, 70 km inland from Gisborne, and its graduates are always highly sought-after by farmers and station owners all over New Zealand.

Training manager Denver Palmer says it is very much about nurturing the students into a future in agriculture.

“The reason this is so successful is firstly that station owner Rob Telfer has made his farm available for the programme, and secondly the passion and support of the board and other local farmers and businesses,” says Denver.

And it has won national awards for its efforts. Last year the programme won the prestigious Sheep and Beef Industry Trainer of the Year crown.

The programme accepts just five cadets a year, who join the five from the previous year.

At 2000 hectares, the sheep and beef farm — run 50-50 — is well set up to ensure the cadets have plenty of hands-on experience and training.

“We could take more cadets, but it would water down the training and experience they get, and we want them out there doing the work,” says Denver.

Young men and women are encouraged to apply.

“We don’t have it set in our minds as to whether they should be boys or girls,” says Denver.

“We just take the best candidates.”

Those candidates — aged between 16 and 19 and who have completed at least year 12 of school — may not be the top academics from their respective schools, but they do have to have more than just a healthy dose of good attitude and a clear passion for agriculture.

“Most have dreamt about that from childhood. Some have grown up on a farm but others may have lived in town but worked on an uncle’s farm or something. That’s not a negative thing at all. Sometimes those who have grown up on farms may have bad habits that we need them to unlearn. Within a few months of them all being here, you don’t know who is who.”

Denver says once part of the programme the cadets work very hard.

“They know they are here for two years so are committed to that — these are the cream of the crop.”

On graduating most head out shepherding, while some opt for the agri-business side of farming, or head to university to gain further qualifications.

At Waipaoa they do level three and four national certificates, but perhaps more importantly they graduate with the knowledge of what to do in every facet of farming.

“They are all taught to a very high standard and can be left on their own to do a job. The remoteness of the station may be the hardest thing for some cadets here,” says Denver.

“They can’t have a beer each night like some of their mates who don’t have those sort of boundaries in place. But really, they are pretty excited to get here.”

The theory side of their learning is supplied by EIT, with Denver the tutor.

EIT head of school Steve Phelps has plenty of praise for the programme too.

“These cadets live and breathe farming for two years,” he says.

“They follow the farm process and learn how things are done through the seasons. It is a really special place, and that culture makes teens want to apply.”

The cadets also graduate with two good working dogs. The current cadets are proving to be dab hands at dog trialling. Waipaoa cadets filled the podium in the novice section of the Gisborne A and P Show, and none of the three had ever competed at a dog trial before.

Their fencing skills are also shining bright. This year Waipaoa beat Smedley Station and Otiwhiti Station Farm cadets at the Mystery Creek Fielddays. Smedley had won the competition every year . . . until 2016. The Waipaoa cadets also beat Smedley in the fencing competition at the Waipukurau Show last year too.

“There is a healthy rivalry between the two.”

Plans are afoot to get all 50 Waipaoa graduates back next year to help celebrate the 10th birthday of the programme.

New cadets for 2017 are Kristy Roa (Hamilton), Jacob Maxwell (Whakatane), Hamish Gilbertson (Gisborne), Jack Ellingham (Waipukurau) and Toby Proude (Ohakune). Denver started at Waipaoa in early 2016 after 11 years with PGG Wrightsons where he was a technical field rep.

“My wife Amber and I were both born and raised on farms, and I was shepherding prior to going to Wrightsons.

I was keen to get out of the rat-race a bit, and for the kids to grow up in the farming lifestyle,” said Denver.

“To have some input into New Zealand’s future farmers is really rewarding. It’s nice to step out the door and I am at work,” he added.

Amber home schools their children Jesse (8), Zoe (6) and Sarah (5).

THE longevity and success of the soon-to-be 10 year-old Waipaoa Station Farm Cadet Training Trust speaks volumes.

It is fiercely competitive to get into the two-year agricultural training programme which is run on Waipaoa Station, 70 km inland from Gisborne, and its graduates are always highly sought-after by farmers and station owners all over New Zealand.

Training manager Denver Palmer says it is very much about nurturing the students into a future in agriculture.

“The reason this is so successful is firstly that station owner Rob Telfer has made his farm available for the programme, and secondly the passion and support of the board and other local farmers and businesses,” says Denver.

And it has won national awards for its efforts. Last year the programme won the prestigious Sheep and Beef Industry Trainer of the Year crown.

The programme accepts just five cadets a year, who join the five from the previous year.

At 2000 hectares, the sheep and beef farm — run 50-50 — is well set up to ensure the cadets have plenty of hands-on experience and training.

“We could take more cadets, but it would water down the training and experience they get, and we want them out there doing the work,” says Denver.

Young men and women are encouraged to apply.

“We don’t have it set in our minds as to whether they should be boys or girls,” says Denver.

“We just take the best candidates.”

Those candidates — aged between 16 and 19 and who have completed at least year 12 of school — may not be the top academics from their respective schools, but they do have to have more than just a healthy dose of good attitude and a clear passion for agriculture.

“Most have dreamt about that from childhood. Some have grown up on a farm but others may have lived in town but worked on an uncle’s farm or something. That’s not a negative thing at all. Sometimes those who have grown up on farms may have bad habits that we need them to unlearn. Within a few months of them all being here, you don’t know who is who.”

Denver says once part of the programme the cadets work very hard.

“They know they are here for two years so are committed to that — these are the cream of the crop.”

On graduating most head out shepherding, while some opt for the agri-business side of farming, or head to university to gain further qualifications.

At Waipaoa they do level three and four national certificates, but perhaps more importantly they graduate with the knowledge of what to do in every facet of farming.

“They are all taught to a very high standard and can be left on their own to do a job. The remoteness of the station may be the hardest thing for some cadets here,” says Denver.

“They can’t have a beer each night like some of their mates who don’t have those sort of boundaries in place. But really, they are pretty excited to get here.”

The theory side of their learning is supplied by EIT, with Denver the tutor.

EIT head of school Steve Phelps has plenty of praise for the programme too.

“These cadets live and breathe farming for two years,” he says.

“They follow the farm process and learn how things are done through the seasons. It is a really special place, and that culture makes teens want to apply.”

The cadets also graduate with two good working dogs. The current cadets are proving to be dab hands at dog trialling. Waipaoa cadets filled the podium in the novice section of the Gisborne A and P Show, and none of the three had ever competed at a dog trial before.

Their fencing skills are also shining bright. This year Waipaoa beat Smedley Station and Otiwhiti Station Farm cadets at the Mystery Creek Fielddays. Smedley had won the competition every year . . . until 2016. The Waipaoa cadets also beat Smedley in the fencing competition at the Waipukurau Show last year too.

“There is a healthy rivalry between the two.”

Plans are afoot to get all 50 Waipaoa graduates back next year to help celebrate the 10th birthday of the programme.

New cadets for 2017 are Kristy Roa (Hamilton), Jacob Maxwell (Whakatane), Hamish Gilbertson (Gisborne), Jack Ellingham (Waipukurau) and Toby Proude (Ohakune). Denver started at Waipaoa in early 2016 after 11 years with PGG Wrightsons where he was a technical field rep.

“My wife Amber and I were both born and raised on farms, and I was shepherding prior to going to Wrightsons.

I was keen to get out of the rat-race a bit, and for the kids to grow up in the farming lifestyle,” said Denver.

“To have some input into New Zealand’s future farmers is really rewarding. It’s nice to step out the door and I am at work,” he added.

Amber home schools their children Jesse (8), Zoe (6) and Sarah (5).

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