Jeff Farm is on Old Coach Road between Mataura and Clinton. The 2,424 hectare property—highly regarded as a top southern farm—is managed by well-known southerner John Chittock for The Salvation Army Trust Board.
In August 2017, the farm was recognised as the best farm in the country for training the next generation of farmers. The farm won the Silver Fern Farms Sheep Industry Trainer of the Year award at the Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Sheep Industry Awards.
The award organisers recognised the work of farm managers John and Liz Chittock over 17 years, providing young people with the opportunity to learn both basic farm and life skills. They commended the Chittocks as ‘enthusiastic about encouraging young people into the industry and take a real interest in them as individuals, encouraging and supporting them to be skilled shepherds and farmers’.
However, John said the award was definitely a team effort involving seven staff on the farm. ‘It’s nice to be recognised, but it’s just what we do. It gives us a lot of reward seeing these young people come in straight out of school and leaving as young adults. What we try and do for other parts of The Salvation Army also gives us a lot of pleasure.’
This is an indication of how well the farm is managed. However, this was not always the case as Jeff Farm was undeveloped for many years.
Jeff Farm came into the possession of The Salvation Army in an interesting way. Edmund Jeff farmed the property for years before World War II with the assistance of local labour. Times were tough and he did not have the capital to develop the property. The war and its aftermath removed the pool of local labour and in the early 1950s, widowed and with no children, Edmund faced compulsory acquisition of the farm by the Government so that it could be divided into small units for the settlement of returned soldiers.
But Edmund had a better idea. In 1952 he formed a trust to administer the property- rather than have the Government acquire his land and stipulated that the farm was to be gifted to The Salvation Army. This was providing that it was used to train young people - who would not otherwise have such a cereer option - for a career in the New Zealand agricultural industry.
The Salvation Army took over the running of the Trust in 1954 when Edmund Jeff wanted to travel the world and set about administering the farm according to his wishes. Young people were trained, and under various managers, the property began to show a profit after having provided training for the students.
Edmund Sanderson Jeff died in Glasgow on October 11th 1970.
In 1982, The Salvation Army Trust Board set up a farm management board and invited a number of southern business and farming people to sit on it. This resulted in a massive development programme—financed by accumulated profits over the years.
Low-lying pasture was drained and upgraded, new internal roads were built and the farm buildings and stock were significantly upgraded. There was an escalation of profit and The Salvation Army looked at the situation and came up with a plan to expand the terms of the late Edmund Jeff’s bequest—but still within its spirit and still using Jeff Farm as the source of that bequest.
The High Court approved a variation of trust whereby, while some students would still be trained at the farm, the trust board could use the income to educate young people for a life in agriculture at other approved training establishments.
The Salvation Army grants scholarships for young people to study agriculture-related courses at Lincoln University, the nearby Telford Rural Polytechnic at Balclutha, Taratahi Agricultural College and Primary ITO.
Every year,4 young people are in residence and—under the direction of manager John Chittock and his senior staff—are trained in practical farming skills. The course takes two years and competition for entry is strong.
According to John, the farm now runs nearly 30,000 stock units. 67 percent of these are sheep, 25 percent cattle and 8 percent deer. He says that for the last ten years, the prize-winning hoggets on the farm have been mated. John also says the farm is targeting at 140 percent for lambing ewes and at least 80 percent for the hoggets.
The hoggets were last lambed in October/November. All the lambing hoggets are vaccinated against abortion and this has proved very successful. The sheep on Jeff Farm are all commercial flocks mated to Wairere Romney and some to Motu Nui rams.
Romneys are preferred on Jeff Farm as they suit the climate and the terrain. They have good barrel and depth and while being of a smaller size, they mature early and have consistently good rates of growth. This has meant—in most years—the lambs have gone by the end of March and the management can process about 40 percent of the lambs straight off the ewe.