Like most rural kids who grew up on a farm, Curtis Whyte helped out where he could; shaped by those early experiences, he wanted to learn more and get qualified, to help progress his career in farming.
“Telford was the best place,” Curtis said. “My uncle attended Telford years ago and my parents had worked in Balclutha and heard about Telford during their time in the area.”
Having that farming background, there were no surprises for Curtis as he began his studies, he had also attended a Telford Taster Camp prior to enrolling, so he knew what to expect. This long-held tradition at Telford allows prospective students to check out the Telford experience for a couple of days, through a range of activities in the primary sector, assisting them in the decision-making process of pursuing an agricultural career. “I didn’t have any expectations, I had a rough idea of the work involved,” he said.
Curtis completed two qualifications in his two years at Telford: The first year he completed the Certificate in Agriculture, learning a wide range of information on the dairy sector and the sheep and beef sector. This course also saw Curtis learn many of the practical skills he uses on a day-to-day basis in his farm work. The second year at Telford he completed the Massey Diploma in Agriculture.
“This course was mainly book work, where we went into more detail about soils and plants and built on what I knew from my previous year - without this course I wouldn’t have gotten my current job, as it allows me to better understand what is happening around me.”
Curtis says Telford has allowed him to experience many different farming systems and it changed the way he viewed how someone carries out their farming tasks, “It lets me take a step back and figure out a way to do it, which is easier on me and the stock”, he said.
For Curtis, the most rewarding experience from Telford came from living on campus. “... you made new friends that weren’t doing the same course as you and it allowed you to socialise without leaving campus and I feel that as a whole, we were a big family.”
Curtis took on an extra role while at Telford: he assisted in Telford’s marketing at education expos by operating and explaining the Tenstar Tractor Simulator. Telford students have the advantage of experiencing tractor driving before ever setting foot inside a real tractor. The only-one-of-its kind simulator for agricultural education in NZ, enables students to gain experience and master techniques, supplementing their training on a real tractor.
Curtis would help box up the simulator on campus in preparation for travel, then do set-up at the expos. He would teach those interested how to operate it, and talk to prospective students about life at Telford.
He also volunteered his evenings on the Rural Contracting courses, to offer any assistance with the simulator, helping students on the course build their confidence or showing them the harder manoeuvres, like how to reverse the tractor.
“When Telford had an open day or taster camp I would also show the students the simulator and teach them how to use it, I enjoy being able to help people and for some of the contracting students, seeing a smile when I helped them figure something out - from this role I gained some new friends and I was able to see a different side of Telford.”
Curtis said as he was doing expos and marketing it meant he missed some class time, as well as dealing with Covid and online classes, “...it was very easy to fall behind, but thankfully the tutors helped if you asked”.
In his second year at Telford, Curtis was elected as the chair of the Telford council; this allowed him to take part in governance of student life around campus and improving the student experience.
Completing a week-long work placement on a farm in year one opened doors and led Curtis to his first job in farming. He said the work experience helped to secure his employment once he had graduated from Telford. He works as a General Shepherd for Pamu – Landcorp, on their Riverslea farm, near Manapouri in the Te Anau basin, Southland.
Future goals for Curtis in his farming career, are to continue progressing and eventually gain managing roles after a couple of years. “My qualifications have provided me with a base to build from,” he said.
“I loved every day I spent at Telford and being around people who all shared one interest - agriculture - even popping into the office for something was always an amazing time, Telford is one big family and they look after each other.”