Dairy farming social media ‘influencer’ Tangaroa Walker is spreading the word through ‘edutainment’. By Anne Lee.

Tangaroa Walker knows all too well how tough it can be to learn in a conventional classroom environment or even being handed a book or manual to work through.

The high-energy, young contract milker, husband and dad of two is best known to many through his social media profile, Farm 4 Life, where he shares the “at pace” comings and goings of farm and family life.

His Facebook page was originally a way to inform the 16 shareholders in the Southland dairy farm he works on but it quickly grew in popularity.

Tangaroa won the inaugural Ahuwhenua Young Māori Farmer Trophy in 2012 when he was just 22 years old.

It was then he set his sights on making the industry a more attractive opportunity for potential farming job seekers.

His lively, upbeat content struck a chord with other young farmers and people interested in seeing farm life.

His social media following has exploded to where he now has more than 250,000 followers and his videos have more than 80 million views.

But Tangaroa’s not just posting to clock up views or followers, he’s harnessed the power of social media to draw attention to and direct people to an online video learning platform called the Farm 4 Life Hub.

It’s where thousands of videos can be downloaded for free with more being produced and uploaded regularly.

They’re instructional and educational, showing both the how and the why, of onfarm tasks and procedures.

Importantly they’re also made with his quintessential humour and energy bringing in experts to share their knowledge so viewers/learners have access to top-quality information and advice.

He calls the videos “edutainment.”

For those who find it easier to learn by doing, watching and listening rather than sitting in a classroom and reading about it, the approach is proving a hugely valuable resource.

“If there was someone delivering this sort of content when I was coming through the industry, I think it would have fast tracked my career by a couple of years.”

They cover topics from shifting cows on crop to dealing with a cow with mastitis and everything in between.

They’re designed to give people the experience, preferably before they need it, but they’re useful for anyone at any stage.

They come with a quiz so knowledge can be tested too.

His work has caught the attention of a big range of sector groups and companies who are coming on board to partner and support.

One of the biggest milestones so far has been the partnership with Southland Institute of Technology.

In May this year a formal partnership was announced with SIT’s agricultural campus Telford so the Certificate in Farming Systems and Equipment (Level three) Dairy strand offered through Telford could be incorporated into the Hub.

That’s meant videos for the course have been approved for the NZQA certificate.

A pilot course is running this year with 50 students selected from the Farm 4 Life Hub online subscribers.

The hub has more than 500 paid subscribers and 4500 freemium subscribers using the Hub app as an educational resource.

Tangaroa says another intake of up to 200 NZQA students is planned for early next year and that will help expand and fine tune the video input into the course.

Ultimately the aim is to enable it to be used for NZQA standards by anyone, anywhere.

“We’re designing it so it can be available for people overseas too, that way anyone coming to New Zealand to work on a farm could gain practical onfarm skills before they even step off the plane.

“That would make a huge difference to them and to the farmers employing them.”

That’s where the Hub’s two-level subscription options come in.

The Hub videos are downloaded using the Farm 4 Life app.

The ‘freemium’ subscription, is free, as its name suggests, and is available to anyone.

That allows users to watch all of the videos online anytime or download them to their own offline learning library.

That makes them useful as a reference for later when out onfarm if there’s limited cell phone service or the user doesn’t want to clock up data charges.

They can take a quiz after watching the video modules which checks how well they’ve taken in what they’ve viewed.

They also have access to the Hub subscribers’ private Facebook group.

Users will be able to create their own digital CV showing what modules they’ve covered and how they got on in the quizzes.

The premium subscription is for each team member and for a cost of $20/month allows the user, who is likely to be an employer, the ability to drag and drop modules or sections or individual videos assigning them to people in their farm team.

The employer can see an overview of each team member’s viewing progress so they can follow and support their learning journey.

Tangaroa says most people interested in being a part of the dairy sector want to be working while they’re learning and the Hub enables that.

He’s been a champion for the primary sector for many years and his passion and enthusiasm is contagious so he is a huge drawcard when it comes to attracting people into the sector.

“The problem is I’ve been filling up the bath but the plug was out.

“That’s why I pulled back on being a keynote speaker and put the energy and time into developing the app so we could educate and support the people we draw in.

“It’s important we give them that second layer of understanding when we’re making the videos – that’s the why we do things not just the how we do things.

“When you understand how things all fit together, the effects of a task or action on the other parts of what’s happening onfarm then you understand why it’s important to do a good job and it makes it all the more interesting.

“That’s where the passion comes from.”

Tangaroa is working with DairyNZ on the Go Dairy programme so that the Hub can be used to support and educate newcomers through that programme before they go out onfarm for practical experience.

There’s no shortage of ways the Hub can be used to help attract, grow and develop people in the sector so expect to see plenty more from this huge advocate for dairying and the primary sector.