The nuts and bolts of environmental practices on the farm

22 March 2024

Primary ITO has launched the new Farm Environment Planning Level 4 Micro-credential (a smaller sized piece of targeted learning) in response to farmers and their staff needing to know how to implement and monitor a farm environment plan.

This includes things like greenhouses gas emissions, natural resources, waste management, biodiversity, chemical use and effluent management.

Primary ITO Sector Manager for Meat and Fibre, Mel Sheppard, says farmers are well aware of the demands and impact farming can have on the environment. The micro-credential packages up what farm staff need to know – the why, what and how – so they can confidently support the implementation and monitoring of the farm environment plan.

“Managing their farming environment is top of mind for farmers and the number one topic where we’ve been asked to develop training. Those farmers working on gaining NZ Farm Assurance Programme (NZFAP Plus) accreditation will be excited to see how this micro-credential supports their whole farm team to understand what is required, particularly in the programme’s environment module. Plus, it ticks the ‘staff training’ requirement!

“Farmers are naturally focused on being good stewards of the land – it’s their home, their families are there and the land is where their incomes come from. So there are already lots of great things being done. We need to bring our farm staff – the future managers of our land – into the conversations and plans so they can learn from farmer experience and be set up to continue the legacy.

“Not everyone can commit to learning this as part of an apprenticeship or other training programme. This only requires an hour or two a week over five months, and can be done at the time that best suits the farm.”

Primary ITO Dairy Sector Manager Marianne Awburn says the micro-credential’s focus on implementing and monitoring a plan, as opposed to creating it, means most staff members can be involved.

“We’ve found that farmers really value being able to share those decisions with their staff so they can report things that they might see and not otherwise recognise as an issue.”

She says there’s huge willingness among farmers to take care of the environment but staff need the right knowledge to help that happen.

“We’re removing the fear of the unknown, so staff can talk about and read a farm environment plan and understand what they’ll have to do with it. Farmers have a huge responsibility and it’s important that we back them up training so the whole farm team grows in confidence, understands how to capture opportunities and tackle the challenges.”

The training has previously only been available as part of a broader programme, such as an apprenticeship or New Zealand Certificate. Creating the standalone micro-credential makes it a more workable option for people needing that specific piece of knowledge.

Mel says the training can be tailored to the type of farm and its location.

“For example, you may be working on a farm that doesn’t feed into waterways, so you may choose to focus on other areas like waste management or erosion. The training can be totally relevant.”

The training starts with being able to describe farm environmental risks and farming practices that mitigate environmental risks. Staff will also learn to identify risks to farm and catchment environments and describe opportunities to improve farming practices.

The training is a mix of learning on-farm along with two off-job workshops. Marianne says the workshops are an opportunity to talk about farm environment issues with other farm staff and what they are each doing – or trying to do – to mitigate risks and improve farm performance.

“Employers and learners have told us they really value the peer-to-peer interactions and talking about what others are doing in the same situation.”

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