THEY came, they saw, they helped, they broke down and they’ll be back to do … most of it again.
A group of 35 students made the trip inland from Tomaree High School near Port Stephens in recent weeks, motivated by AgQuip and drought conditions.
They went home with more than they bargained for: insights into drought and what farming’s really about, and a plan to make the trip again – going home with some poddy lambs next time.
The group went to AgQuip on the Tuesday to check out the latest in agriculture technology; Farrer the next day to check out their ag plot; then quick visits at a couple of farms on the way home.
Agriculture and primary industries teacher Gary Stuart said the Year 8, 9 and 10 students would rarely – if ever – go far inland and he’d felt it was important “to show them what’s really happening in the drought”.
He said the school’s two-acre ag plot had a “token” five sheep, five alpacas, a couple chickens and a “really good fish set-up” growing silver perch and Murray cod.
A broken-down bus thwarted some of their plans during their trip, but Mr Stuart said: “They haven’t stopped talking about it … They really enjoyed it; it was a real eye-opener for them.”
“A couple of the ones who were not anti-agriculture, but young girls who see things on Facebook about the ‘cruel’ farmers and horse industry, came away with a completely new liking for it,” he said.
“One came and spoke to me this morning and said, ‘The things they show us on Facebook are not even close to being true’ … That’s all I wanted to do: take some of the students out to get a different feel for what’s happening on the other side of the divide, and I think it’s worked.”
A school group plans to return to visit a Kootingal producer with 400-odd pregnant ewes.
“We put our hand up to take some day-old lambs and bring them back here,” Mr Stuart said.
“The kids can bottle feed them and look after them until, hopefully, you get some rain and some grass and we can take them back there.”
Mr Stuart said the teens had been “in disbelief” at the dry conditions and the spin-off issues created.
“At one stage, I think we’d travelled for 10km and one of the girls counted 58 dead kangaroos,” Mr Stuart said.
“We might get the occasional kangaroo hit around here, but nothing like that, they just couldn't believe it.
“We went past one paddock that literally must have had thousands of kangaroos in it but no livestock … a lot of them were lost for words at how dry it was.”