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Key Skills For Sustainable Small Enterprises On Offer At Northtec Site In Rodney Next Year

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

NorthTec tutors Betsy Kettle and Gawain Sharp will be providing Rodney residents with the skills to set up their own small enterprises next year as part of the level four programme in Sustainable Rural Development that will be delivered at NorthTec's Koru Grove site near Silverdale.

"Many people have a dream of living off the land," said Betsy Kettle. "We will be providing people with the knowledge and skills to make a partial income from their lifestyle block land."

Students will be able to network with successful local producers and growers as part of their research projects. They will have the opportunity to visit working lifestyle block properties and be mentored by successful small growers and producers. Students will also be taught key business skills such as defining their potential markets.

"There are sound economic and environmental reasons why everyone should acquire this kind of land-based knowledge," said Gawain Sharp. "The challenges of peak oil make it important for people to be able to feed themselves and grow what they and others need locally and seasonally. It's about creating and maintaining a sustainable and economically viable way of life for us all."

Well-known small producer, farmers' market advocate and former NorthTec tutor in the Rodney District, Rob Velseboer, agrees. "The more we have people growing and going to farmers' markets the better it is." Rob and his partner will be mentoring students on the NorthTec programme.

Rob cautions that making money from the land requires a lot of hard work and commitment, however. "It's really hard and you can't have a mortgage. Ideally, if you are a couple who are embarking on a land-based enterprise, one of you needs to be working so that there is still a regular income coming into the household."

Rob and his partner have had an heirloom fruit orchard for 12 years and started an organic seed business two years ago so that their income was less seasonal. They sell their produce at three farmers' markets each week.

The key thing is having a genuine passion for what you're doing. "You have to really enjoy it. It has to be a lifestyle choice that you really want to make. It's not a money-making exercise and it helps to have support. We certainly depend a lot on friends and family for help."

Despite the challenges, Rob says that he wouldn't want to be doing anything else. "I wouldn't change it for the world. Home enterprise is a great idea, but don't both give up your day jobs."

"The newly-appointed director of Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development for the Auckland Super City and former Rodney district mayor, John Law, has been quoted as saying that he sees great potential for the small producers in the Rodney district to contribute to the Auckland Super City economy," said Betsy.

"He has said that tourism and major events are key drivers for economic development, and that he envisions the Rodney District expanding as it becomes increasingly seen as 'Auckland's Weekend Playground'. We see students who acquire the skills that we will be teaching next year as equipping themselves to benefit from this expanding marketplace."

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