Baillie Fawcett and Holli Robinson on WaiCol’s “Top Farm”. PHOTO/ANISHA SATYA

Anisha Satya

Wairarapa College has earned itself a reputation in many fields.

It’s lesser known for its real fields, however; the pastures a five-minute walk from the school’s front gates.

The farmland, owned by the Masterton Trust Lands Trust, gives WaiCol students an upper hand in the world of agricultural education.

The farm was allocated to the school for practical use in 1955, and has since been home to sheep, cattle and numerous crops.

Nicknamed “Top Farm”, the land has become a great opportunity for the 342 students enrolled in agriculture courses to get on the ground and out of the classroom, gaining them the “know-how” you just can’t get through reading texts.

Top Farm is just the tip of WaiCols’ agri-iceberg.

With paddocks on-site, tractors, and a shearing shed among other resources, students in the courses are well-placed to pursue passions in agriculture after college.

WaiCol’s head of department of agriculture Dan Grace said encouraging students into the primary sectors is important.

“Masterton, dare I say it, is surrounded by grass. Why shouldn’t we encourage our kids to pursue opportunities that are right in front of them?”

The Manawatu-born teacher is tremendously passionate about farming, and endeavours to foster that passion in his students.

“Snow on the Tararua [Range], students working away, all smiling … it’s a great ‘office’.”

The teacher-student relationships, coupled with the farmland and equipment, makes for one of the most influential courses in the college.

Year 13 students Baillie Fawcett and Holli Robinson are testament to that statement.

The two students took up agriculture in their junior years and have continued through to NCEA level 3.

A few minutes of conversation will prove just how significant that hands-on education is.

Ask them about anything from soil acidity to lambing; those girls know their stuff.

The students’ learning extends beyond the college gates, and that’s thanks to the community.

Outside opportunities for young people have increased in recent years, with private farms and the Golden Shears inviting in the next generation.

It’s that sense of community which is having students and businesses work together more and more.

That empowerment from the community goes back into the classroom and motivates the students to create their own projects.

Students are trying to create a new strain of sheep, named ‘Kaimac’.

Grace said, “It’s the first time we’ve done something like this, and it’s completely student-driven.”

Robinson has voiced her hopes of pursuing a career in agriculture after college.

“I wouldn’t see myself doing anything else.”

Fawcett has similar aspirations and credits the college for her many external experiences.

“WaiCol has opened a lot of options for me – for everyone in the courses, really.”

At the end of the day, it comes down to one thing: passion – loving what you do.

“I really enjoy working with teenagers” Grace said, “and helping them realise their potential.

“That’s why we do it; to help them grow.”

A beat, and then he adds “and for them to teach us adults a few things!”.