Every day is different for St Paul’s High School Kempsey agriculture and primary industries teacher and vocational leader Graham Bramley.
Since establishing the school’s 250 acre farm, Graham has been on the go seven days a week.
“Our farm models a multi-stack enterprise to show kids that a number of products can be grown on one parcel of land,” Graham says. “The farm is our classroom.”
Graham currently supervises up to 70 students, who are involved in all aspects of managing the land. The group maintains a herd of 20 Devon cattle, free-range pastured pigs, poultry for meat and egg production and a thriving vegetable garden. All produce is sold within the school community.
Students operate farm machinery, build fences, plant crops and, most popularly – present cattle and poultry at agricultural shows across the region.
According to Graham, this practical approach to learning encourages students to develop resilience, patience and compassion – life skills that aren’t easily obtained in a cushioned classroom.
“We just took a showing team of 25 kids to Wingham and there were a few tears when the cattle were taken to be killed,” he says. “It’s a confronting thing for kids but it’s also good because it encourages them and to become compassionate people.”
After years of working in the agricultural industry, Graham, who grew up on a confinement piggery farm near Gloucester, decided it was time for a change. A diploma of education and teaching role set him on track to explore sustainable, future-focused farming methods.
“I thought that confinement farms were the only way,” he says. “It wasn’t until I became a teacher at St Paul’s 19 years ago that I realised there was another way.”
Graham’s passion for his outdoor classroom has proven contagious. Student numbers continue to grow as agriculture becomes a more attractive. The school has also recently hired a teacher to specialise in horticulture.