Dogs and dishes…cadets learn life and work skills on farm training scheme

Dogs and dishes...cadets learn life and work skills on farm training scheme
Mustering and rearing and training a heading dog are part of the first year course at Waipaoa – Rebecca Williams Photography.

While mustering sheep and training dogs is a big part of the day-to-day for cadets on the Waipaoa Station Farm Cadet Training programme, other important life skills – such as knowing when it’s your turn for the dishes – are also fostered during the two year cadetship.
As many as a hundred young people apply for a place on the programme each year, however,only five applicants are selected.
Over the next two years, the ten first and second year cadets live together in a hostel on the remote Waipaoa Station, an hour’s drive from Gisborne.
Currently the 1760ha station focuses on sheep and beef farming, however there are plans to develop an arable farming component in future.
In this best-practice environment, the cadets learn all the practical and management skills required by the industry, from experienced professionals.
The first year covers fundamentals such as woolshed operations, slaughtering, carpentry, stock sense, and rearing and training a heading dog.
In their second year, the cadets break in a horse, and learn mustering and animal health, in preparation for the shepherding positions that are the entry point into the industry for many of them.
These practical skills are combined with technical farming skills, such as soil analysis and training in the use of fertilisers.
The programme is rounded out with business and farm management courses delivered by the Eastern Institute of Technology.
The Trust’s live-in manager, and head of pastoral care, Cristalle Sligo, says that working and living together creates a really tight knit group of young people with strong self-management and relationship skills.
“The cadets need the right attitude and the personal accountability to do well in farming, as well as the ability to communicate and get on with people. Living and working together teaches them the whole range of skills, and the feedback we get from the industry is that our graduates leave here really work-ready.”
Cristalle says the cadets come from a wide range of backgrounds.
While many are from farming families, others come from urban backgrounds, and have chosen farming because of a personal passion for working with animals, or for the outdoor environment.

Dogs and dishes...cadets learn life and work skills on farm training scheme
Cadets learn to break in a horse as part of their training at Waipaoa Station. Photo: Rebecca Williams Photography.

She says that an increasingly balanced gender mix is applying for the programme, and is confident that more young women will be selected for the programme in future. Cristalle believes the farming industry welcomes female workers in a diverse range of roles.
Waipaoa definitely runs an equal-opportunity programme when it comes to the domestic chores. Cadets are on a roster to assist the cook with prep and dishes, undertake general cleaning, and take on maintenance such as wood chopping, milking, and caring for animals.
But it’s not ‘all work and no play’. Regular social nights are part of the programme, and cadets often opt to join a team at the local Ngatapa Sports Club.
“We’re not just about turning out good farmers,” says Cristalle. “The skills they learn will be with them for life.”
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