Lisa Bonenkamp started her study journey at Telford like many other students, getting an idea of what the rural polytechnic had on offer at one of its Taster Camps. While still at high school Lisa said she received guidance from her Agriculture teacher, who encouraged her to go down for the taster week during the school holidays. She really enjoyed the experience, interacting and learning with people who had the same passion for agriculture as she did.
After researching Telford and other similar courses, Lisa decided to attend Telford as it seemed to have the best reputation. She also liked the structure of the courses - incorporating theory and practical elements, but especially the work experience programme, which is a fundamental component in students putting into practice what they’re learning, on real, working farms.
In Lisa’s first year at Telford, the groundwork was laid to provide a good basic skill set as she gained her Certificate in Agriculture. The certificate programme consisted of theory, practical learning and work experience. The aim is to provide a wide variety of useful skills for graduates going out into the workforce. Lisa learnt a range of practical skills, such as shearing, milking, chainsawing, welding, tractor and quad skills, fencing, mechanics, and butchery.
Theory covered animal health and diseases, plants and weeds, chemicals, fertiliser, how to keep a pasture diary and how to do a stock reconciliation, to name a few. Lastly, she completed 12 weeks work experience, where the student is paired with a farmer and property, and they live and work for them for a week. This was Lisa’s favourite part of certificate as she loves getting out on farms and learning how different people manage their farms and the challenges of farming.
“I think that the certificate course at Telford is a perfect starting point for anyone wanting to go into farming as it gives you practical skills, and the knowledge to go behind it. This gives you a base where you can go into any area of stock farming whether it is sheep, beef, dairy or deer”.
She found the most valuable part of year one was the work experience as it put her name out in the farming community and gave her contacts and references to find jobs in the future. Lisa finished year one on a high note, by winning ‘Best First-year Student Dog Trainer’.
Year two at Telford saw Lisa achieve her Diploma in Agriculture. As a natural progression for many students, it built on the knowledge she had gained from the certificate. The diploma comprised of mainly theory with a work experience and report component to be completed in her own time.
Main subjects from year one are presented in a more in-depth mode, along with several other topics such as financial budgeting, in-depth feed budgeting, soil and plant health and diseases, computer skills and much more. Lisa said the second year gave her skills to progress into a manager’s role when she was ready.
One of the most rewarding things Lisa experienced at Telford, were the other students and tutors.
“You make lifelong friendships and there are people who I keep in regular contact with. It was such an incredible, supportive place to learn in and I would recommend it to anyone looking at making a career in agriculture”.
Another part of Telford life she found fulfilling was the opportunity to have her own dog on-campus while studying there. “Working dogs are an important part of sheep and beef farming and I learnt all my basic dog training skills from the tutors at Telford”.
After completing her diploma, Lisa was employed by Waikaka Genetics, a stud farm in Southland. She benefited from a placement there during work experience in the certificate course, then wrote her case study paper about the farm as a component of the diploma course. The door to employment was opened through her connection to the farm during her time studying at Telford, she says.
“I was prepared by the two courses to not only start my job at an entry level, but to continue on learning to take on more responsibility in the farm. My qualifications also helped me get into the Southern South Island Beef and Lamb New Zealand Generation Next Programme, where we learnt the overall farm business e.g., financial basics and management, management of mental health and wellbeing over four days. This course really reinforced what I had learned in my diploma along with plenty of new things”.
Lisa’s next step is to continue working and learning in different farming systems and environments within NZ. She expects her achievements will help her to secure jobs by confirming she has a credible level of knowledge in farming.
Long-term goals include: to start her own beef stud; in her employment, eventually stepping up into a manager's position, then further down the track running her own farm. Lisa’s qualifications combined with her focus and drive, put her well on the way to determining her future and obtaining her aspirations.
“I believe my qualifications have given me a solid base stone to start building towards these goals” she said.