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Scholarship awarded . . . Teagan Graham, of Rangiora, has received a Silver Fern Farms scholarship. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

By DAVID HILL

A passion for animals and the environment has led to a former Rangiora High School student receiving a scholarship from Silver Fern Farms.

Teagan Graham, studying for a Bachelor of Science in environmental management and ecology at Otago University, is one of six young people from around New Zealand to receive a “Plate to Pasture Youth Scholarship” from the meat processor.

Each recipient receives $5000 towards their studies as recognition for their ideas to further the sustainability of the red-meat sector.

Teagan said she had no family connections to agriculture when growing up in Rangiora.

“I took biology at school, but I figured I was never going to be a farmer as I don’t come from a farm.

“But now I realise you don’t have to be a farmer to have a career in agriculture.”

She chose to study environmental management and ecology as it “ticked all the boxes”, as she is passionate about the environment, health, animals and food.

She says she is keeping her options open, but would like to work to find a balance between looking after the environment and meeting the needs of a growing population.

“We need to meet the demands of today, while keeping the environment stable and restoring it to it’s natural state as much as we can for future generations.”

Her long-term goal is to set up a network of farmers, environmentalists and ecologists who can work together to create “an integrated, collaborative, sustainable and admirable agricultural team”.

“We’ve got to have collaboration, because otherwise we are belittling farmers and a lot of them want to do the best they can for the environment if we give them the skills.”

Teagan’s presentation to the recent Silver Fern Farms conference included her view on regenerative farming to help farmers reduce their environmental impact, farming principles and practices to transform the ecosystem, and collaboration between stakeholders for “social-learning” and traceability to provide proof to consumers and tell a story.

But it is not only farmers who can make a difference, as Teagan believes “urban farming” can play a role in improving the footprints of large towns and cities.

The food forest in the former Kaiapoi red zone and similar projects in eastern Christchurch are examples of what can be achieved.

“We’ve got to have green spaces in the urban environment, including ponds and trees to provide all the ecological services for us to survive, and without nature we cannot survive. If you increase an urban environment, you’ve got to increase the green environment.

“You can’t just wipe out the green spaces.”

Urban farming is also a way of educating people about where their food comes from, as increasingly children grow up with no connection with agriculture, Teagan says.