Jeff Farm helps farming industry thrive through Salvation Army programmes

Jeff Farm, in South Otago, is recognised as one of the best training farms in New Zealand. Run on behalf of The Salvation Army Trust Board, the farm’s two-year cadetship programme provides motivated young people with the practical skills they need to thrive in the farming industry. Jeff Farm Trust also offers grants that support various Salvation Army programmes.

For 22 years, John and Liz Chittock ran Jeff Farm and its training programme with care and dedication. Under their watch, the farm won the 2017 Silver Fern Farms Sheep Industry Trainer of the Year Award. Last year, John and Liz passed the baton to Mike and Tarryn Benton, who have stepped up, respectively, as Farm Manager and Farm Administrator.

“John and Liz did so much here – they really turned the farm around to get it where it is now,” says Mike, who first took up a stock manager’s role at Jeff Farm in 2022. “I previously managed a training farm in the North Island. Tarryn and I are passionate about training and mentoring young people, so having this opportunity to run Jeff Farm feels like the pinnacle of our careers.”

Mike grew up on dairy farms, with his parents managing various Landcorp (Pamu) dairy farms. He initially went into dairy farming after leaving school, before joining a sheep and beef farm at 17 and then progressively working his way up the ranks to become a farm manager. Tarryn grew up in Southland, where her parents managed iconic Mount Linton Station, and she later went on to study at Lincoln University.

Cadets get plenty of hands-on experience at Jeff Farm.

“Our big focus this year is to spread the word to young people about these cadetships… what we’re looking for is commitment and the right attitude.”

Jeff Farm is a 2,433-hectare breeding and finishing property, carrying around 30,000 stock units (sheep, beef and deer) with all progeny finished on-farm. The farm operation targets 145 percent lambing survival to sale from the ewe flock and 90 percent from the mated hoggets. The farm’s sheep are all Romney bred, with mating to Wairere and Motu Nui rams, and the property also carries an Angus beef herd.

Currently, there are five cadets going through training at Jeff Farm. Working alongside the farm’s seven-strong staff contingent, the cadets get plenty of hands-on experience whether it’s assisting with drenching and shearing or taking their turn on the cooking and cleaning roster. They also have opportunities to gain Level 3 Primary ITO qualifications, with some starting Level 4 before finishing their cadetships.

In March, they will be lending a hand with cattle and deer weaning, getting young stock used to being worked with horses and dogs and going through yards and gates. Every cadet gets a pup to train up as a working dog, eventually building to three or four dogs by the time they graduate. “Our big focus this year is to spread the word to young people about these cadetships. You don’t need to have grown up on a farm to be eligible – what we’re looking for is commitment and the right attitude.”

Those interested in finding out more about the cadetships, associated agricultural scholarships and the farm operation can head along to Jeff Farm’s next open day on Saturday, 3rd August. Info online

© Waterford Press Ltd 2024 – Independent Print Media New Zealand

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