Extension 350 is an innovative programme designed to lift the profitability, environmental sustainability, on-farm performance and wellbeing of Northland farms through a farmer led mentoring and extension programme.
Through focused support and shared learning Extension 350 will help improve farm systems, and build business and personal resilience.
This farmer focused, grassroots extension framework has the potential to make a real economic and social impact on dairy, sheep and beef farmers across Northland. Profitability equals choices giving farmers the flexibility to make decisions that support longer term goals for on-farm improvements, debt repayment, managing succession or improving livelihood.
Northland’s pastoral sector is a billion dollar industry producing around 25% of Northland’s Gross Domestic Product and contributing strategic, economic and social benefits to the region. Studies and ongoing industry benchmarking support the view that as a whole Northland’s pastoral sector tends to underperform relative to both its resource base and against wider industry trends.
Extension 350 is well positioned to support the industry shift of both individual farmers and the region from current levels towards upper quartile performance.
Through farmer-to-farmer learning and sharing of knowledge, Extension 350 will provide practical steps to help your farm become more profitable.Luke Beehre — Extension 350 Project Manager, Northland Inc
Extension 350 operates across a range of organisations that have a significant interest in Northland’s pastoral sector and the potential economic impact for the region.
A project manager works with the steering committee that includes an independent farmer chair and representatives from key stakeholder groups: Dairy NZ, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, Ministry for Primary Industries and the Northland Regional Council. These organisations, along with Northland Inc, support and fund the project.
Extension 350 builds upon and strengthens, through collaboration of these organisations, previous strategies and projects that have been implemented throughout Northland and New Zealand that were also aimed at transforming farms through improving management and on farm performance, including:
Candy Farm (DairyNZ focus farm project) - improving profit margins through better on farm management
Far North and Mid North partner farm case studies
Monitor Farms in the beef and sheep sector, which Beef + Lamb New Zealand has been involved with for over 30 years in Northland. The objective was to take an average farm and transform it into a high performing farm by focussing on best practice whole farm management.
- Raise the on-farm performance of Northland farms
- Improve profitability of Northland farming businesses
- Improve environmental sustainability
- Strengthen farmer networks and lift farmer interactions
- Increase participation and engagement of Māori farmers and incorporations
- Enhance farmer wellbeing and engagement.
Extension 350 is modelled on geographical clusters of five farms that each operates in a triangle between the target farm, mentor farmer and agri consultant. Advice and direction is provided to the target farm by a farm consultant and this relationship is then supported and encouraged by a mentor farmer. Target farmers and mentor farmers will then interact and influence a surrounding group of associated farmers, further spreading the benefits throughout the farming community.
Extension 350 comprises 10 clusters totaling 50 target farms, 50 mentor farmers and 250 associate farmers. The programme is rolled out over five years with each cluster running for a three-year period:
|Year 1||Three clusters fully operational for the 2017/18 season|
|Year 2||Four clusters fully operational for the 2018/19 season|
|Year 3||Three clusters fully operational for the 2019/20 season|
The overall selection process for farmers to be involved in the project is underway and tracking well. The broad timeframes for Year 1 are:
|December 2016||First farm consultants confirmed|
|January 2017||Farmers’ expression of interest closes|
First cluster region’s draft selection
|February - April 2017||Cluster regions confirmed:|
1. Far North (sheep and beef)
- mentor and target farms confirmed
2. Bream Bay (dairy)
- mentor and target farms confirmed
3. Whangarei North (dairy)
- mentor farmer and target farm recruitment & selection underway
|March – May 2017||Selection of 60-75 associate farmers|
|October 2017||Year 2 region selection confirmed|