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It began in 1991, and has recently hit 100, but the Monitor Farm Programme is not set for retirement anytime soon, says MWI Monitor Farm Programme Manager Mark Aspin.

"The Monitor Farm is all about helping farmers right across New Zealand to adopt new technologies and practices into their operations, and this will continue as we welcome our one hundredth Monitor Farmers, Matthew and Bill Latham of Little River, Banks Peninsula into the programme."

The Monitor Farm programme is funded by Meat New Zealand and the Wool Board.

The beauty of Monitor Farms is that it is in everyone's area, Aspin said. "After adding a new region last year (West Coast), we now have 27 Monitor Farm regions throughout the country. This means no matter where in New Zealand you are, there is a Monitor Farm not too far away, so everything we do on the Monitor Farm can be related back to your property."

The uptake of technology from Monitor Farms has been shown to benefit each participating farmer by $6,700 on average and over $500,000 (collectively for all participants) for each Monitor Farm region, Aspin said. "It has also been estimated that if every farmer adopted these proven Monitor Farm techniques and practices, the industry would benefit by $20 million annually."

Monitor Farmers also benefit in other ways, Aspin said. "The spectre of 'farming in the fishbowl' can be a bit unnerving for some initially. But one of the most rewarding things about the Monitor Farm for me is witnessing the personal growth of the participants throughout their time as Monitor Farmers. Not just in a professional or business sense, but their personal development in areas like speaking in front of an audience at public meetings is often quite remarkable."

There has been numerous highlights throughout the life of the Monitor Farm Programme, Aspin said. "One Monitor Farm cleared over $600,000 in debt during its time in the programme, and many of the technologies and practices that culminated in setting a record national lambing percentage of 125 percent last year, originally came from Monitor Farms."

"By having goals to focus on and knowing what resources are available in each region, opportunities are created and lead to a really positive atmosphere for these farms to prosper in," Aspin said.

Every Monitor Farm region has proven its potential, Aspin said. "In every region we have seen a huge amount of skills and knowledge, and the Monitor Farm has been able to capture this."

However the Monitor Farmers or community group members are not the only beneficiaries, Aspin said. "From a personal perspective, I find it a pretty satisfying project to be involved in."

Aspin said there is no reason why the Monitor Farm will not continue to provide a useful tool for farmers. "There is certainly no time limit on the programme. As long as farmers continue to support the Monitor Farm, and so long as it is providing a valuable forum for transferring information to farmers, we will continue to have Monitor Farms."




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