Tom Adkins decision to study at Telford was made after hearing good things about the rural polytechnic, and the Certificate in Agriculture was just a one-year course there, whereas at other cadet training institutes he was considering, it took two years to complete.
Tom wanted to get get a good grounding in theory and a broad range of practical farming skills to give him advantages in the workforce, and to assist him as he progressed into further study with the Diploma in Agriculture. The deep south location was also appealing to him; it added to the adventure of leaving home in the North Island and coming to Balclutha to expand his horizons, he said.
Tom learned numerous work skills at Telford. The top ones for him were: shearing, fencing, dog training and butchery. There was a good deal of enjoyment had while learning this new set of abilities – mentioning shearing week was particularly rewarding, “...it was a great way to get to know the other students and tutors, as well as getting stuck in and discovering a few muscles that hadn't been used in a while”.
Theory classes were full of opportunities to achieve, with Agronomy and the Animal Health section proving to be Tom’s favourite topics. He said he studied Weed and Pasture Identification. “We made our own folders of plant species we collected and pressed. This was a great way of learning to identify plant species and was more in-depth than my later studies”.
Animal Health was also thorough, Tom said by being taught cause of illnesses, symptoms and treatments he said it gave him a good understanding of a broad range of animal health conditions and diseases.
A significant highlight for Tom was learning to excel in the areas he put the most time and effort into.
“What you put into the course is what you got out of it, for me I was really interested in Agronomy and Dog Training”.
He explained how willing the staff were to help those students who made an effort with their studies, and advice wasn’t hard to come by. The tutors can see who’s putting in a lot of time and they went out of their way to help them, he said, especially those who were keen to learn more outside of class time, and putting extra effort into assignments, they were given every opportunity to pass.
This was evident for Tom in the dog training paddock as he attended the group training session every Friday afternoon with other students, and would put time into training their dogs throughout the week. Tom said he left Telford after two years with a heading dog and a huntaway, both good working dogs. As well as this, he picked up dog training advice and tips by listening to staff and watching other students handle their dogs – valuable knowledge for future dog training.
After completing his certificate, Tom stayed on at Telford another year, studying for and achieving his Diploma in Agriculture. He then moved to Lincoln to study the Diploma in Farm Management, where foundational skills learned at Telford helped him through his university papers.
“The skills I learnt at Telford have been more valuable than the qualification itself. What I learnt in the certificate helped me out a lot in the farm management course as we had learnt the basic principles thoroughly, which made it easier to build on”.
Tom said he entered the Young Farmers District Competition this year, as well as the regional fencing competition which was great experience, and he was able to use skills he was taught at Telford. Since leaving university he’s also been training two more dogs, and got a job at Te Mania Angus Stud in North Canterbury, helping to further develop his practical farming skills.
Tom’s training at Telford has helped set him up for his career and future aspirations. He said in the near future he would like to travel overseas using his shearing skills to finance his OE. He also wants to enter more competitively in the Young Farmer of the Year Competition. In his work life, Tom has a definite career path in his sights, aiming to progress from Shepherd, to Block/Stock Manager, to attaining Farm Manager roles in the years to come.