Farmer Time – Connecting Tamariki to Kai

“Once in your life you may need a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman …. but every day, three times a day, you need a farmer.” Nadia Lim quoted* in an interview recently.  But are our tamariki aware of where the food they eat at each meal originates from, who grows it and the journey of kai from paddock to plate? Farmer Time is an exciting educational programme connecting students directly with their own farmer or grower to learn more about food production.

With 65% of New Zealanders now living in major or urban centres many of our young people can be disconnected from where their food comes from, many may have never experienced a working farm. One research project by Rabobank showed 81% of the urban-based New Zealand teenagers surveyed, know only a little or nothing about farming and food production. Farmer Time bridges this urban-rural knowledge gap by bringing food producers directly into a primary or intermediate school classroom via video technology.

Farmer Time was developed in the UK and piloted and launched this year in Aotearoa by Beef + Lamb New Zealand. Regina Wypych, Head of Nutrition, at Beef + Lamb New Zealand facilitated the programme roll out, says “the programme has been a huge hit with farmers, kaiako and tamariki alike.”

“It’s the simplicity, autonomy, and fun of the programme that is so appealing. Once the food producer has been matched with their teacher they collectively decide on the content of each fortnightly, 15–20-minute session” says Regina. “There’s such a huge range of topics covered, and teachers can very easily match this to their class curriculum subjects. Sessions are also child-centred and based on questions students ask. “

Farmer Time is open to all food producers, with many growing a range of food, along with being kaitiaki of the land, so the session topics can be quite diverse. The programme has the support of Ministry of Primary Industries, Horticulture and Agriculture Teachers Association, 5 + A Day, Federated Farmers, United Fresh and Beef + Lamb New Zealand.

If a school already has existing nutrition-related programme such as 5+ A Day Fruit & Vegetables in Schools, Garden to Table, Enviroschool, Food for Thought, or Ka Ora, Ka Ako (Healthy School Lunches), Farmer Time can complement these, so that tamariki develop a greater understanding of the food that sustains Aotearoa.

The programme has grown amazingly fast and what started with 8 teachers matched with farmers for the pilot has grown to 45 teachers reaching close to 1000 students. The programme is currently taking sign-ups for Term One 2023 from teacher of classes Years 1-8 and food producers.

You can find out more about Farmer Time at To hear a recent Radio New Zealand interview, with Teacher Brigid Ladley and her students sharing their first hand their experience of the programme click here.

A Summary Report of the Farmer Time Pilot can be found here.

*Original quote from American Farmer Brenda Schoepp

Last modified: November 13, 2022