Deaf students visit Canterbury farm to learn about agri-food opportunities

Posted by on 20 June 2018 | Comments

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Sign language has been used to help explain career opportunities in the agri-food sector to hearing-impaired Christchurch students.

Almost 20 students from the van Asch Deaf Education Centre have visited Brian and Louise O’Connell’s farm at Dunsandel.

The visit was part of a major national project putting students from 100 primary schools onto sheep and beef farms.

“I loved it,” said Year 8 student Anahera Strongman. “I liked Brian and his daughter Sarah telling us about what they do on the farm.”

The education programme is funded by the Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP) and delivered by NZ Young Farmers.

“We want to get the industry on the radar of students and teachers, so they’re aware of the career opportunities,” said RMPP’s Di Falconer.

A highlight for students was helping feed cattle.

“We watched Brian feed the calves grass silage, which was a bit smelly,” said Year 8 student Noelani Ritchie.

“Then we got to feed the bulls hay and pat pregnant cows.”

Sarah O’Connell’s a regular at A&P shows, meaning many of the cattle are quiet and used to being handled.

“It was exciting for the students to be so close to such big animals,” said Sarah.

The farm grazes replacement heifers. It also has Angus, Shorthorn and Limousin cattle.

The Limousin bulls are part of a South Island breeding trial.

“The more senior students asked a lot of questions,” said Sarah. “They wanted to know a lot about the bulls.”

Students were accompanied by a New Zealand Sign Language interpreter.

“He supported us with new signs,” said teacher Karen Pasco.

“As we continue our studies it’s likely we’ll keep learning new vocabulary and signs for those words.”

“It was a great opportunity to get a taste of how a farm operates and the effort and hard work it takes to run it,” said Karen.

New Zealand’s red meat sector will need to find an extra 33,000 workers by 2025 to replace people who will retire or exit the industry.

“I would like to learn more about farming because in the future maybe I will work on a farm,” said Noelani.