Four sheep, two ducks, nine bee hives, a brood of chickens and Erol the emu are enjoying the new-look Flinders Farm on-site at Matthew Flinders Anglican College on the Sunshine Coast.
New Flinders Farm manager Jeff Maclennan, who joined Flinders in January this year, is working to revitalise the half-hectare property in Buderim as a vibrant, hands-on learning hub for Flinders’ more than 1300 students from Pre-Kindergarten to Year 12.
Flinders Principal Stuart Meade said the College would benefit from Jeff’s vast agricultural and business experience, and passion for sustainability.
Hundreds of Flinders students visit the Flinders Farm weekly to learn how to tend to veggie gardens, feed the animals, fix broken fences, test the soil, make compost, harvest bee hives and soon to pick mandarins from the orchard in winter.
As well as scheduled class lessons and visits from kindergarten children from Flinders Early Learning Centre, Jeff also welcomes up to 200 Secondary School students per week who choose to visit during their lunchtimes to experience farm life.
“I see my role as a mentor to students interested in agriculture, and I’m also here to provide a fun environment outside of the classroom for our students,” Jeff said.
“Any good farmer is a scientist at heart, and we want to use this incredible space to teach students in real-life practical ways about science through projects like growing food, caring for animals, understanding soil health, irrigation, recycling and sustainability,” he said.
“I am also looking forward to seeing our students get their hands dirty and perhaps helping to shear a sheep!”
Principal Stuart Meade said Jeff’s long-term goal for the Flinders Farm was for students to have the property in full production by rotating winter and summer crops of fruit and vegetables for use within the College or for sale to the community.
“Of course, the true aim is for our students to experience practical learning through problem solving, collaboration, creativity and design,” Mr Meade said.
“We want to give them the opportunity to build confidence as they play a direct role in revitalising this property and feel a sense of ownership as the see their projects take shape,” he said.
“At Flinders we are determined to provide our students with as many opportunities as possible to explore their potential and make a positive contribution to the world, and the new Flinders Farm is certainly a space where students can imagine a better future and contribute in positive ways.”
Jeff brings a lifetime of practical knowledge of growing and producing food, having been born and raised on a farm where his family grew sugar cane and small crops before establishing the third largest privately-owned citrus orchard in Queensland.
Prior to commencing at Flinders in January, Jeff was head gardener of the Ginger Factory at Yandina where he was responsible for revitalising the grounds of the iconic Queensland tourist attraction into lush rainforest and thriving tropical gardens. Jeff also previously spent six years in the Australian Army, as well as managing his own businesses with his wife, Nikky, while raising their two sons aged 13 and 11 years.
In the past two months, Jeff has guided the Year 9 Agriculture Science students to build seven new veggie gardens with nutrient-rich soil that are now producing food such as beetroot, silverbeet, lettuce and strawberries.
“Through a project as simple as veggie gardens, our students are learning the entire process of growing food, beginning with how to enrich the soil by making compost with the veggie and food scraps from the two College tuckshops and cafe,” said Jeff.
“Their next project will be to design and implement a new fertigation system, which will pump fertiliser through the irrigation system, saving time and resources and helping the Farm to thrive.”
Students are also helping to harvest honey from the Farm’s nine bee hives. The honey can then be purchased, and the hive waste materials turned into beeswax for candles and other products.
The Flinders Farm was established in 1992, soon after Matthew Flinders Anglican College was built on the site of a mandarin orchard.
The Flinders Farm boasts three varieties of mandarin trees, two netted vegetable gardens, nine productive bee hives, two ducks named Peking and Webster, chickens, four Dorper sheep and Erol the emu who came to the College as a chick from the Forest Glen Deer Sanctuary 22 years ago.