ANNA Wells lives on a hobby farm just outside Cessnock and, despite teaching agriculture, hasn’t really had to get behind the wheel of heavy machinery before, let alone show someone else how to do it.
But the Mount View High science/ag hybrid is now at one with the humble tractor - even hooking implements to the back and slashing paddocks.
More importantly, thanks to a course at Tocal College, she and colleagues like full-time ag teacher Sam Jarrett are able to help kids who’ve similarly had little machinery experience.
Ms Wells was among the first teachers this year to complete a new course to master the standard issue 45-horsepower Kubota that is seen at school ag farms across the state.
It can be a pretty formidable thing, getting on a tractor
Driven by the Department of Education, and provided by Tocal College skills teachers, nearly 110 teachers across the state this year will learn how to drive tractors and pass the skills on to students.
Successful turnouts at Tocal and Yanco will be capped off with a Tamworth course later this year.
“It can be a pretty formidable thing, getting on a tractor,” Tocal College principal and director Darren Bayley said.
“You can imagine skids who’ve never been on a tractor before need someone there who can give them confidence and guide them.”
Interestingly, with ag teachers in short supply in NSW, it’s teachers from other disciplines who are putting their hands up to learn. As a Lighthouse School for agriculture, Mount View High host events for early career ag teachers to network and brush up of skills.
“We’re few and far between,” said Ms Jarrett. “But it is good get to get everyone together to share skills and knowledge.”
The Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety at Sydney University identifies tractors as the most common factor in farm deaths and injuries in Australia each year.
There have been 49 tractor-related deaths on farm over the past four years, including 17 deaths and in 2017 alone.
Three of the nine tractor deaths in 2016 were kids 15 years or under.
NSW school farm tractors have a remote-control lockout switch and a high-range lockout., along with a number of other safety modifications.