HB at centre of funding boost for Ag and Hort science in schools

In August, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced $1.6 million in funding over five years to get more schools teaching agricultural and horticultural science and more students taking those subjects in a bid to support the sector’s future needs.

O’Connor says the food and fibre sector is nothing without good people. “Educated and enthusiastic people are our competitive advantage as an exporter, because it’s people that deliver technology and grow value.

“We have a $52 billion food and fibre sector we want to grow. This requires employees who can think critically and problem solve,” he says.

The funding provides for one full-time adviser, who is based in Hawke’s Bay, and a support person out of region, and up to 16 part-time regionally based advisers.

Former high school technology teacher Suzy Newman is the newly appointer full-time adviser. She grew up in Te Puke on a dairy and drystock farm. From an early age she was in the cowshed and in charge of rearing the calves.

After completing a BCom (marketing and management) and a BSc (food science) in 2001, Suzy worked at ZESPRI in operations and marketing, gaining valuable experience in the horticultural industry. Later, Suzy made a career change to become a teacher, gaining her Post Graduate Diploma in Secondary Teaching in 2013. Over the past nine years, she was a technology teacher at Napier Girls' High School and Havelock North High School.

In her new role (based at Napier Boys’ High School), Suzy is looking forward to reconnecting and networking with those who share a keen interest in the primary industry workforce. She will continue the work that HATA (Horticultural and Agricultural Teachers Assn) has established to support Agricultural and Horticultural Science  educators and the curriculum to keep building participation and prominence of the subject around NZ.

Suzy says there is huge scope to increase the number of schools teaching Agricultural and Horticultural Science  .

“Currently there are 345 schools offering some sort of primary sector education out of 550 secondary schools, but only 126 schools  teaching a full programme of Agricultural and Horticultural Science.

“My role is to encourage more schools to teach this subject, prepare for curriculum changes to the NCEA Level one courses – coming in 2024, build relationships with industry, communities, and educators, and connect with final year Agricultural and Horticultural Science  tertiary students and get them to consider becoming teachers.”

She says that there is a need to fund subject specialists and provide support. “A lot of teachers are ‘lone rangers’, and one of the key things is having up to date and relevant information to give to students.

“I’m looking forward to building my networks, and would love to hear from anyone within the Future Farming Trust who would like to come and talk to our students and share their knowledge, or who may have work experience opportunities, or are open to hosting a field trip to their property.”

Just one week into her new role, Suzy has several immediate goals for the next few months:

  • Establish connections with agricultural and horticultural educational leaders
  • Prepare for teacher-only accord days (November)
  • Host a teachers’ day out, showcasing primary sector businesses and their career opportunities
  • Creating resources for the new curriculum
  • Attending November’s Mystery Creek National Fieldays, as part of the MPI exhibit

What: $1.6 million over five years from MPI’s Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) fund.

Why: Build resilience and meet future workforce demand in NZ’s food and fibre sector. Raise the profile and public perception of agricultural and horticultural science.

How: Support for agricultural and horticultural science teachers, create resources, and provide important links to local food and fibre sector partners.

Contact Suzy Newman on 027 275 6620, or email her at: s.newman@stpauls.school.nz