The school started with three bor­rowed al­paca but now own their small herd.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Feature -

maize con­trac­tors and talk to them, so there is a lot of en­gage­ment with the lo­cal com­mu­nity.”

When it came to the an­i­mal en­clo­sure, stu­dents were sur­veyed about the type of an­i­mals they’d like to keep. While at first they wanted a whole zoo, in the end they set­tled on al­pacas be­cause they don’t eat a lot of grass. They are also gen­tle, ex­cept for their ten­dency to spit when dis­grun­tled which had the girls pulling faces and shriek­ing with laugh­ter dur­ing our photo shoot.

“These are farm girls – they al­ready have cows and sheep at home, so the al­pacas were a pop­u­lar choice,” says Basti­enne.

The school started with three bor­rowed al­pacas, Ivan, Ava and Harry. Sadly, Harry died, most likely due to liver dam­age from fa­cial eczema sus­tained when he was younger. The whole school at­tended Harry’s fu­neral, just as they at­tended Ivan’s cas­tra­tion where the vet talked them through the whole process.

The school didn’t in­tend to own an­i­mals in the be­gin­ning, bor­row­ing the al­pacas, but they have since bought them.

“We’ve found the al­pacas are quite easy to keep. When I asked the chil­dren a lit­tle while ago whether we wanted to give the al­pacas back and try some­thing new they said no, they wanted to keep the al­pacas. When I asked them why, they said be­cause it would be aw­ful if a sheep walks over Harry’s grave!” says Basti­enne.

An added bonus is that the al­paca poo makes won­der­ful fer­tiliser for Huk­erenui’s young fruit trees. Un­like cow or horse ma­nure, it doesn’t need to be aged and can be spread di­rectly onto the plants with­out burn­ing them. The or­chard is still young, but the trees have been care­fully fed, weeded and mulched, and the stu­dents have al­ready har­vested man­darins, peaches, lemons, guavas and some olives, with classes mak­ing lemon­ade ice-blocks and dried fruit from the pro­duce. Once the 12 va­ri­eties of fruit One of the first projects the prob­lem solvers tack­led was plant­ing their maize crop. Ini­tially, they wrote to Pi­o­neer Seeds, who told them con­trac­tors wouldn’t come to work on such a small piece of land.

“We were not im­pressed, we thought we had enough!” says Katie, who acted as care­taker for the maize. “But we leased another 5ha, dealt with the con­trac­tors, sorted pests and fer­tiliser, learned how to pray for rain and then luck­ily sold it for a profit.

“Find­ing spon­sors and ex­perts re­ally chal­lenged us – find­ing them, writ­ing to them, fig­ur­ing out what to say, and phon­ing, which was the ab­so­lute worst, vis­it­ing and be­ing the squeaky wheel un­til they said yes. Watch­ing the con­trac­tors when they were spray­ing out, spread­ing fer­tiliser and plant­ing the seeds with their enor­mous ma­chines was fan­tas­tic for the whole school.

“I’ve al­ways liked farm­ing be­cause I live on a dairy farm, but through this I’ve

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