From city girl to sharemilker to equity farmer, North Canterbury’s Wendy Croft has come a long way in a sector she says allows young people to work hard and prosper.
“I was working in a bank before I got into farming. I had never milked a cow, but we got into sharemilking to save money, and it was easier for me to manage it than to get someone else to do it.”
Wendy Croft, pictured with with son Thomas, is loving life on the farm.
While husband Ben was raised on a sheep and crop farm, Wendy had to upskill quickly. Some three years ago she enrolled in Ara Institute of Canterbury’s NZ Diploma in Agribusiness Management, which is a practical qualification designed for working farmers, predominately delivered online with face to face tutorials held in Culverden.
“It was very useful. We moved to the new farm and took over from another equity manager. When we came onto the farm there were no policies and procedures left behind, so we spent the first 12 months setting up health and safety plans, environmental plans and human resourcing plans, so the timing for doing the diploma was perfect.”
“It was something I was doing every day, and I’m passionate about farming, so the programme was very rewarding and easy because I was applying what I was doing straight away. I was completing work and then physically printing something out and putting it on the wall and using it, not tucking it away into a folder and in a drawer.”
The Ara programme is run in conjunction with the Primary ITO and recently received a high vote of confidence from the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA), which rated Agribusiness training at Ara Institute of Canterbury as “excellent” in a recent report*. NZQA found that the programme is providing high value to the industry and to students.
“The standout features of this programme are the positive way in which the programme matches the needs of the students and the clear value that students and other stakeholders are deriving from it,” the report said. “Students are able to study alongside the demands of their employment and attend regular tutorial support workshops in their local area at times that fit in with farming commitments.”
The programme is delivered in modules that target the range of management specialisations and are relevant to aspiring owners like the Crofts, as well as to leading corporate farm operators or younger farmers looking to upskill.
With two young children and a business to run, Wendy learned to balance her studies with her family and work commitments.
“I think my husband and I worked together every day for three years! It was hard, and it’s not for everyone - it’s challenging but it’s really rewarding.”
For now Wendy and Ben will focus on their equity farm, however they have big plans for the future. “Eventually we want to buy a dairy farm. The current focus is on making the farm profitable and increasing equity so that we can buy a farm of our own.”
Does she miss her city lifestyle? “Yes, sometimes I miss the city, but I love the lifestyle here – I have good neighbours and good staff. You surround yourselves with like-minded people.”
* External Evaluation Review, NZQA, February 2017.