A new collaboration between Telford, Southern Institute of Technology’s agricultural campus, and Southland dairy farmer, Tangaroa Walker, the creator of Farm 4 Life, intends to provide dairy farm workers nationwide with the opportunity to gain a recognised qualification while they work.
Mr Walker has been a dairy farmer in Southland for the past nine years; he created and developed Farm 4 Life three years ago because he saw a need to educate workers in the dairy sector. The educational social media channel shows an all-encompassing view of what dairy farming entails, from helping cows to calve, through to putting up electric fencing.
“I started filming the videos because there was nothing like that when I started out – if there had been, it could have fast-tracked my career by a couple of years,” he said.
Out of that, the Farm 4 Life HUB was developed as an online video learning platform, with thousands of clips communicating “the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of dairy farming”. Mr Walker calls the videos edutainment – there is a humorous element in the way he presents the learning material in the down-to-earth videos, and it clearly has an appeal, with his clips clocking up over 80M views. “The engagement is really high,” he said. “A lot of that is due to doing a lot of ‘lives’ – people really respond to what I do.”
That quality engagement with people through producing the content, drives the purpose of Farm 4 Life for Mr Walker, as he continues to focus on making the industry a friendlier place for entry-level workers.
“The thing I’m really excited about is there’s now a place for those kids who don’t like school, who struggle to read and write – they’ll be able to learn and upskill through observing and watching,” Mr Walker said.
“The NZQA qualification brings a whole lot of legitimacy to the HUB and what I do, and it creates a greater divide between the HUB, which are proper learning videos, and my social media content. It will allow me to be more myself,” he added.
Dr Sally Dobbs, Head of Faculty SIT2LRN and Telford Campus, said she first met Tangaroa Walker in his role as coach at his gym, The Barracks, and was immediately struck by his positivity and supportive nature. Recognising his ability to motivate and get people enthusiastic about education, Dr Dobbs started thinking about ways SIT could work with him and Farm 4 Life.
“The reason we got involved with Tangaroa was his positive attitude and love for the dairy industry,” she said. “Tangaroa’s Farm 4 Life videos provided training but there was no industry-recognised accreditation, we thought we could partner with him making use of his material, but most importantly, participants would get a recognised qualification at the end of it.”
Dr Dobbs said the process of using Farm 4 Life material and aligning it with a SIT qualification began in October 2021. She acknowledged the enormous amount of work which had occurred in the background by Debbie Rankin, Programme Manager of Telford Campus, who brought the idea to fruition through taking the Certificate in Farming Systems and Equipment (Level 3) Dairy strand, and incorporating elements of learning from the Farm 4 Life videos. “It has been a huge undertaking,” said Dr Dobbs.
The pilot programme will start on May 30th, with a limited number of students selected from Farm 4 Life subscribers. Mr Walker said they wanted to offer places on the pilot from more than 600 participants who were already using the HUB.
A successful outcome from the pilot will see Dairy workers being able to enrol through Telford, learning and gaining a Certificate in Farming Systems and Equipment (Level 3) Dairy strand. Utilising Farm 4 Life, it can be studied from anywhere in NZ. “We want to take the time to make sure it’s done right, and the pilot will allow that to happen,” said Dr Dobbs.
“We’re really excited that Tangaroa’s work will be aligned with a qualification... we see the potential of it in the future is huge... He is so passionate and energetic about education and the industry, he has been a pleasure to work with,” Dr Dobbs added.