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