ONE of the State’s most innovative farmers, Richard Weston of Brighton, says Tasmania has the opportunity to create a true agricultural and horticultural school of excellence through the expansion of the current Jordan River Learning Federation School Farm on a new and larger site.
Richard Weston says by relocating the School Farm from the Brighton township, to a new site alongside other working farms in the nearby district, would open up tremendous opportunities for students and great outcomes for them and the farming community.
Mr Weston, who won a 2012 Nuffield Scholarship to study white asparagus production, is Tasmania’s only paprika grower and successfully farms vegetables, flowers, olives and other crops on a 8.5 hectare property on the Brighton outskirts.
He says the relocation of the School Farm to a more appropriate and superior site should be a ‘no-brainer’.
“In my view and that of other experienced farmers is that the $4.3 million allocated by the State Government to improve the School Farm will be wasted, if it is spent of the current site,” Mr Weston said.
“I am aware of the issues and the reality is that the area is too small to be sustainable. The farm itself is tired, it has poor soil, its orientation is all wrong and it is hemmed in by residential development, so it will never be able to expand on that site.
“The truth is that the site in the middle of a growing township is all wrong, but we now have a real chance to get it right.”
Mr Weston said farm land was available just a few minutes out of Brighton where neighbouring farmers could assist in providing high standard agricultural and horticultural education, enabling students to obtain employment-ready skills and qualifications.
“We have local farmers involved in cropping, fruit and vegetable growing, vineyards and raising livestock and students could be exposed to all this learning.
“The outcomes for the students and our rural industries would be outstanding and it’s an opportunity we should not lose.
“It is well known that Tasmania will need skilled agricultural workers to meet the future demand for our quality produce.
“The School Farm could play a key role in meeting that need, but it can only do so if it moves to a larger and more productive site more in keeping with a real farm.
“Farming is challenging, but there are great opportunities for future growth and there is nothing better than our young people to learning from those deeply involved in the industry and who know the skills and training needed for success.”
Mr Weston said he understood the desires of those who wanted to see the farm remain on its current site in the middle of the Brighton township.
“They are all good people, if misguided and are clinging to a historical memory, rather than considering the potential for the future.
“If the right decision is not made now, growing environmental, regulatory and community pressures on the current site, together with rising costs and a lack of sustainability, may see the School Farm lost forever.
“The relocation of the Farm School would represent a win, win, win situation. It would provide students with superior educational outcomes, deliver an upskilled entry-level workforce for the agricultural and horticultural industries, and would release a parcel of land in the Brighton township that would be suitable for the promised Brighton High School,” Mr Weston said.