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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.




Farm Advisory Division, Department of Agriculture

Under a Director and two Assistant Directors, a group of senior specialist officers stationed in Wellington controls the Farm Advisory Division. The Division is organised into eight regions, each one under a Fields Superintendent who controls all field staff engaged in farm advisory work in the region. The resident farm advisory officer, whose district usually comprises 1,200 to 1,500 farms, is the keystone of the service. There are 54 such districts, 27 of them having more than one advisory officer. These men are the “general practitioners”–the main source of farmers' information on any aspect of the development and management of their farms, on soil management, crop and pasture production, animal husbandry and farm management. They gain considerable local knowledge by long residence in a district and must keep abreast of general developments in the science and practice of farming in which they are helped by the specialist staff of the Division, by conferences, special courses, and visits to agricultural research centres.

Soil management covers the whole range of soilfertility problems–fertilisers, lime, drainage, irrigation, and cultivation. One of the first duties of an advisory officer is to study local soil fertility using, as a basis, the soil types classified by the Soil Bureau of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research .

Crop and pasture production is an important part of advisory work. There is here a close link with the work of the Grasslands and Crop Research Divisions of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. The Division arranges for the multiplication and distribution of nucleus stocks of seed and supervises commercial seed production through the seed certification scheme.

In animal husbandry work there is a close link between the Division, the departmental Research Division, the Massey University of Manawatu, and the Canterbury Agricultural College at Lincoln, so that the results of research into animal production and management can be passed on quickly to farmers.

In farm management the Division has studied mainly high-producing and well-managed farms, analysed the management factors of high net farm incomes, and passed on the information to other farmers through articles, lectures, and field days.

The Division is backed by the departmental research stations: Ruakura Agricultural Research Centre (Hamilton), Winchmore Irrigation Research Station (near Ashburton), Invermay Research Station (Mosgiel), and Taieri Soil Research Station.

A Fields Superintendent's region contains “specialists” as well as “general practitioners”. They are men who specialise in advising on soil conservation, farm drainage, farm economics, farm machinery, and home science. Farm advisory officers (conservation) advise farmers on problems of soil conservation or erosion and will draw up plans to get this work done, including advice on the best kind of tree to plant to control erosion. Farm advisory officers (drainage) advise farmers on farm drainage problems and will undertake surveys to install a drainage scheme. Farm advisory officers (economics): many farmers have recently begun to regard their farms as business enterprises and have sought advice on the financial and economic implications of changes they may contemplate in their farm organisation or management. The advisory officers in economics, by drawing up programmes and making out budgets, are able to help farmers. These officers also prepare reports to assess the likely effect on farm production of installing rural water-supply schemes, constructing State irrigation schemes, or river-control works. Farm advisory officers (machinery) advise on the best type of equipment or machinery for a particular job and will advise on the installation of farm water supplies and farm irrigation schemes. There are 21 sheep and wool instructors to advise on general problems of sheep management with special attention to flock improvement and handling of the wool clip. Home science instructors help the farmers' wives. This is a recent and important innovation. After the Second World War the Department recruited staff trained in home science and there are now 10, who are located in the six main centres. They advise on all aspects of homecraft.

Advisory Work of Other Departmental Divisions

Two other divisions of the Department of Agriculture do advisory work. The Animal Health Division has between 20 and 30 veterinarians. Six are specialist officers dealing with investigations and advisory work on animal diseases. In addition 100 livestock instructors give advice on animal health and husbandry, although their main job is to enforce Acts and regulations dealing with health of stock. The Division also has between 15 and 20 poultry instructors. The Horticulture Division helps orchardists and market gardeners through its advisory officers stationed in the main orcharding and market-garden areas.

Young Farmers' and Country Girls' Clubs

These organisations are distinct from the Department of Agriculture, though it sponsors them. They are the medium through which advisory officers can spread progressive ideas on farming. Advisory officers take a close interest in the clubs. The clubs, begun in 1933, work mainly towards agricultural education, and meetings are generally devoted to lectures and demonstrations, the subjects chosen being relevant to the particular clubs' district. Field days are also arranged and clubs are helped by talks and demonstrations by research workers, experienced farmers, and representatives of business firms associated with farming. The aims and objects of the Young Farmers' Club movement can be summed up as follows: To develop interest in the well-being and advancement of farming; to promote agricultural education and instruction; and to foster the spirit of leadership and self-reliance among the youth of the farming community. At present there are some 365 clubs with a membership of about 11,000.

The Country Girls' Clubs have similar objectives, their aim being to provide educational, cultural, and recreational activities for country girls, to promote an interest in rural life and welfare, and to improve leadership and self-reliance. The instructors in home science give advice and help to the clubs. There are about 153 clubs with approximately 2,500 members.

Media Used by the State Farm Advisory Service

The media used by advisory officers vary, but the most important is the farm visit, often at the wish of the farmer, sometimes on the initiative of the advisory officer. Mass-media methods are also used, as, for example, the field day, where a new technique is demonstrated on a particular farm, and farmers in the district are invited to attend. Then there are topical articles in local newspapers, broadcasts from district radio stations, or lectures to clubs and other farming organisations. Advisory officers must write articles for the Journal of Agriculture, published monthly by the Department. In winter there are farm schools to run. Here, in cooperation with local farmers (usually a branch of the Federated Farmers) arrangements are made for a panel of lecturers to give lectures on topical farm subjects at a local hall. These “farm schools” last usually for a day, but sometimes for two days, particularly in districts where the farming systems vary. The Department exhibits both at summer and at winter agricultural and pastoral shows.

The Ruakura Animal Research Centre's Farmers' Week (usually held in June each year) is an effective advisory instrument. Three days are taken up with lectures by station research workers and other prominent speakers and one day is devoted to looking over the research projects and having the work explained.