New Zealand: Life Lessons

Submitted by Danielle Lecce on the 2020 winter session program in New Zealand sponsored by the Department of Animal and Food Sciences…

After four weeks abroad in New Zealand, I have been able to personally reflect on my life goals, values and personal health and well-being. Studying sustainable agriculture in another country has also afforded me several diverse learning opportunities. Not only has this program taught me to view animal agriculture from a different perspective, but to be open to dissimilar perspectives on issues in all aspects of life.  There are always several angles to an approach with each having its own pros and cons, but it doesn’t make one superior to another. Of all the life lessons I am taking back with me to the United States, one that I will hold on tight to is to explore more. Already knowing that the world has so much to offer, learn and see, I believe that it is one thing to hear it, but another thing to experience it for yourself.

There were several fascinating farm management styles reflecting the interrelationship of New Zealand agriculture and sustainability at each farm we visited. I was most fascinated by the rotational grazing platform here in New Zealand in contrast to the cut-and-carry system in the United States. I was impressed to learn that most farms rarely supplement feed and are able to grow all their pasture on the farm while also meeting the nutritional requirements of each animal. I was impressed by how animals are in a constant rotation through paddocks and the benefits this brings to the health of the animal. Likewise, I was amazed by the analytical data that goes into maintaining a nutrient rich pasture, and how farmers acknowledge their carbon footprint by incorporating crops that prevent nutrient leaching into the water table, as well as cover crops to protect soil quality.

Besides talking about agriculture and sustainability, some of the farmers talked about their outlook on life, which I found very meaningful and personal. One farmer talked about the value of family and living in the present, which I thought was a very valuable life lesson. Another spoke about the heavy topic of mental health and the importance of lifting people up, having conversations and lending a helping hand. His message is one that needs to be heard by everyone; while it can be a hard topic for some, it is the reality of today and through conversation, the world can grow together to understand weaknesses that lie within us all.

A picture of the students of my program, professors Dr. Griffiths and Susan Garey, and farmer Hamish Murray at his farm Bluff Station. He has around 32,000 acres of land and his farm includes the mountain ranges in the background.
A mob of sheep at Acheron Station, a farm run by Scott McFadden. New Zealand’s largest animal production is sheep.
In our last week, we visited Castle Hill. This is where the battle scene of The Chronicles of Narnia was filmed.