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Robbie Ashhurst – James Ruse Agricultural High School – NSW

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Imagine a high school in the middle of Sydney that operates a farm, and you have James Ruse Agricultural High School in the suburb of Carlingford. Since 1959, the co-educational high school has been teaching the finer points of agriculture to a diverse cohort of students.

The school values a progressive approach to agricultural learning; the importance of pollinators’ contribution to agriculture and native ecology is embedded in the school’s curriculum.  The school even has its own apiary!  

Robbie Ashhurst, an agriculture teacher at the school, registered the James Ruse Agricultural High School recently with Bee Friendly Farming ®, becoming the first Bee Friendly Garden at a school in Australia.  

Robbie registered the school with the BFF-Garden program because she values the way that Bee Friendly Farming (BFF) membership complements the conservation efforts that are being undertaken around the school grounds. 

The agriculture teachers, together with Year 7 students, have been restoring native vegetation.  “We’ve been planting a range of native trees, shrubs and grasses,says Robbie, “because unless we recreate habitat there is nowhere for the biodiversity on the farm to nest and forage”. 

The school, on 10 hectares of land, now offers varied floral resources to pollinators including vegetable plots, clover rich pastures and multiple patches of native vegetation.  

Over the past few years, the school has been removing several old trees, and a Pinus radiata plantation, replacing the trees with a range of bee-friendly species. 

Students undertake assessments of the foraging resources around their school, examining which plants are most beneficial in supplying nectar and pollen resources.

Stingless bees also feature at James Ruse Agricultural High School and provide a great way for students to get up close and observe native pollinators, and make comparisons to the European honeybees kept at the school.   

Bee Friendly Farming ® stands out as making a statement to the rest of the school and the school community about what the school believes.  If you just tell students about it in class, it’s not quite the same as having the membership, which acts as an acknowledgement and a platform that highlights what we are doing and what we stand for is helping our environment”. 

Bee Friendly Farming is a way of uniting people that are heading in the same direction and becoming a common voice for promoting pollinator health.  Robbie sees the different streams of BFF-Garden, BFF-Certified and BFF-Partner as offering a suite of choices for farmers, gardeners, and business partners alike. 

We want individual places and organisations connecting, not to remove the identity of the originals but to show that we are all here, we are all working on this together”.

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