The Telford Campus began as the Telford Farm Training Institute in 1964, resulting from successful negotiations by a group of South Otago residents who were keen to see an agricultural training facility established in the area. The land was made available from the family of William Telford and it is administered by the Telford Farm Board of Management (the Board) according to the terms of the Telford Act of Parliament 1964.
Telford operated as the Telford Farm Training Institute without any government assistance from 1964 to 1974. In 1974 a partnership was made between Telford Farm Training Institute and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, (MAF), whereby the Board was responsible for the farms and the MAF was responsible for the education. In 1989, the Ministry of Education replaced MAF as partner, and in February 1991, Telford became a polytechnic with a council elected to operate the campus and educational facilities, alongside the Board.
Made up of representatives of a wide range of farming organisations, which assisted Telford to get established, the Board has a statutory responsibility for managing the farms. The purpose of the farms is to provide a commercially realistic "classroom" for students to learn practical farming skills.
In 2019, Telford became a faculty of the Southern Institute of Technology.
Telford has large commercial scale dairy, sheep & beef and deer farms, with a total effective farming area of 670ha. The farms aim to perform in the top 25% for their land class.