Most of time the best way to understand is to experience! At the end of May, twenty Year 12 Agribusiness students from JMC and Columba College left for a 3-day tour of Central to visit a few well-known but unique businesses.
James Dicey of Mt Difficulty kicked things off with a interactive lecture on the wine industry and specifically the workings of the business at his winery. Zoe, the chief winemaker then took the group on a tour through the winery and outlined the process (and science) of making both red and white wine. Whilst the students were not allowed to taste the wine, we were able to smell the vintages at various times in the process.
After checking into the Wanaka Lakeview Holiday Park, we all helped out to make a tasty dinner. Then we headed off to Mount Aspiring High School, who had kindly arranged for a DairyNZ rep to come in and speak to the combined classes about the dairy industry.
The following day started early with breakfast and then a tour of the Cardrona Whiskey Distillery. Many of the boys were greatly intrigued by the interesting equipment used for the fermentation and production processes. A former student of Suzanne Bishop is a whiskey-maker at the distillery and kindly took us on the tour and explained the process. The class also decided that we should buy our own vat for a meagre $12500-00 and have a reunion in 10 years to drink the mature product!
From the distillery on to the Lavender Farm after lunch. The owners, Tim and Stef, were very welcoming and proudly showed us around the 'risk' they had undertaken as a former mechanical engineer and primary school teacher. It was a business that not many of the students had encountered before and they listened with interest as the couple explained the branding process and marketing associated with opening a new business. The honey tasting was a big hit as was the visit with the farm animals. It was difficult to ascertain whether it was a Year 12 class or kindergarten kids that ran screaming towards the alpacas, sheep, Highland cows and Koko the pig!
After a busy day we kicked back and enjoyed dinner at Jack Rabbit (the students convinced me that the unplanned, extra expense would happily be carried by their parents who would 'never begrudge them a mean feed'!!).
After another very early start we met Mark Darling at the Apple Orchard Pack house in Ettrick on the way back to Dunedin. Again the boys were particularly excited about the cool equipment in the pack house and I spent more time ensuring that no-one was inadvertently packed into an export shipment after fiddling with equipment best left alone. As always, the students were very surprised at how strict the export quality control measures are to ensure one's product reaches the desired market and fetches the desired price.
Overall, a very successful trip with plenty of material to use in particularly the business assessments over the two years of the course. Our thanks goes again to our partners who made these experiences possible for our students (even at times when they are normally closed for business).