The long-term relationship between Telford and Jeff Farm has been mutually beneficial, firstly, in helping hundreds of young people realise their study and job goals by taking their first steps in a farming career.
As well as this, Jeff Farm scholarships provided to students make a considerable contribution to the running of Telford, with many recipients using the financial assistance to pay accommodation and living costs during their time at the rural campus.
Jeff Farm is a 2,424ha farm owned and managed by The Salvation Army. Its purpose was designated in 1952 when the farm’s owner Edmund Jeff put the farm into a trust so it could be utilised in training young people for a career in the New Zealand agricultural industry.
Located between Mataura and Clinton in Southland, Jeff Farm has been managed for more than 20 years by well-known farmers John and Liz Chittock.
In 2017, the farm won the Silver Fern Farms Sheep Industry Trainer of the Year award at the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Sheep Industry Awards, recognising it as the best farm in the country for training the next generation of farmers.
The farm runs its own cadet scheme, taking on five cadets annually to train. In addition to this, the productivity of the farm allows for the facilitation of the scholarship scheme, The Edmund Sanderson Jeff Farm Training Award, which assists many more young people in their pursuit of farming as a career.
Jeff Farm Board chairman Simon Glennie has been on the board for about 18 years and involved in interviewing the scholarship applicants for many years as well. The board provides oversight of the farm to assist the Salvation Army with policies, strategic direction, and management of the property.
Telford’s programmes teaching entry-level farming skills are perfectly aligned to the original vision of the farm’s founder. Edmund wanted young people to be able to learn the basics, then achieve a career in farming.
Simon said Telford’s role in training young farmers was important, in giving students a basic skill-set, providing them with enough knowledge to give them a start in the industry.
He finds a great deal of reward in taking part in the selection process of young people who have challenges and obstacles to overcome. The Jeff Farm scholarships assist them to achieve their study goals more easily and with less stress. Simon said having raised a family and having university-aged children, allows him to relate to the applicants well and have a good understanding of where they’re at.
The board is looking for young people who are keen to get a start in agriculture but may be struggling in some way – financially, from a health perspective or another reason. Unlike other funds, the Jeff Farm Scholarship programme deliberately focuses on providing for young people where there is a need, said Mr Glennie.
“We’re not the same as every other fund – we’re not looking for the [academic] top 10 per cent. We look for those who have a need. And where we see a need, we will try and help, that’s what we’re here to do”.
While the need varies between years, the average annual allocation to Telford students has exceeded $30,000 per year since 2010, he said.
Students have 15 minutes to impress the interviewing panel.
“They’re often really nervous, some have no farming background whatsoever, and they’re still settling into student life.”
The interviewers attempt to put the student at ease and focus on understanding their particular situation. In that short amount of interview time, “they try to look at the size of the obstacles they have, and look behind the façade, to meet the real person and the real challenges they’re facing”, Simon said.
“I find it really rewarding, meeting the young people, it’s great to hear their stories, and between 16 to 18 years they grow up a lot. Many are young kids who’ve just left home for the first time and they’re still feeling their way.”
Along with the rewards of the role, there’s a real sense of responsibility within the board to fairly allocate the scholarship money to the best of their abilities, he said.
“We’re really happy to continue providing where the needs are”.
The biggest buzz is when the board receives a letter from a student who wants to acknowledge the difference the scholarship has made in their lives, and it’s evident they’re doing well.
“Getting the odd message of thanks is particularly rewarding,” he said.
Scholarship recipient (2020) Venessa Kotze immigrated to New Zealand from South Africa during her childhood. She completed a Level 3 Certificate in Agriculture and found out about Telford by attending a Taster Camp in 2019. She enjoyed it and because she loved farming, wanted to return to study.
She loves the people aspect of Telford and really enjoys the work experience students get the opportunity to participate in because “it’s a taste of actually working on real farms”.
Being a recipient of a Jeff Farm scholarship makes a big difference to Venessa. Her parents weren’t in a position to help her so the scholarship allows her to finish her year without debt.
“We get fees free, but this will help pay accommodation costs. It really helps, it takes a big load off my shoulders, I really appreciate the scholarship”.
Omni Koehler hadn’t come from a farming background either, and tried work experience on a farm while still at high school. She really enjoyed it, so her agriculture teacher suggested Telford as a next step in training for farming.
“I really enjoy learning the practical side of it, I haven’t grown up on a farm so it’s good experience, learning off all the tutors who have all these skills to teach you.”
Being a Jeff Farm Scholarship recipient, takes a lot of stress off her family. She didn’t qualify for a student allowance or loan, so she’d have to pay her parents back and with a younger sister still at home she’s aware of her needs as well.
“The Jeff Farm Scholarship takes a lot of that pressure off me”.
Omni’s considering her options for 2021. She’s discovering new interests during her course and the latest component completed was mechanics, which she loved. She may go into the workforce or is considering further study in the mechanical engineering field.
Telford’s Taster Camps allow students to discover what it’s all about before making a commitment to study, providing a hands-on experience of living, and learning at Telford. The five-day camps also provide students transitioning directly from high school with the chance to meet and make friends with other enrolling students.
The 2021 camps are scheduled to take place on:
- July 13-17;
- October 5-9;
- December 7-11.
To register for a Taster Camp, email your expression of interest to email@example.com.
Programme Manager Debbie Rankin said the management and staff at Telford have had a busy 18 months with SIT’s investment into developing the campus, and they’re looking forward to an exciting 2021.
For further information on applying for a Jeff Farm scholarship, go to: