Deaf students visit Selwyn farm

by Kent Caddick

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

Almost 20 students from the van Asch Deaf Education Centre visited Brian and Louise O’Connell’s farm at Dunsandel recently. Students were accompanied by a New Zealand Sign Language interpreter. The visit was part of a major national project putting students from 100 primary schools onto sheep and beef farms. The education programme is funded by the Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP) and delivered by New Zealand Young Farmers.

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

Year eight student Anahera Strongman said she loved the visit.

“I liked Brian and his daughter Sarah telling us about what they do on the farm.” A highlight for students was helping feed cattle.

“We watched Brian feed the calves grass silage, which was a bit smelly,” said Year eight 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 around Selwyn, 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, the more senior students asked a lot of questions. They wanted to know a lot about the bulls.” Sarah said. The O’Connell’s farm grazes replacement heifers. It also has Angus, Shorthorn and Limousin cattle. The Limousin bulls are part of a South Island breeding trial. Teacher, Karen Pasco, said it was a great opportunity for the students to get a taste of how a farm operates and the effort and hard work it takes to run it.

Student, Noelani Ritchie, said she would like to learn more about farming because in the future she would like to work on a farm. 

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.