Land Girls at Canterbury Agricultural College
A short course in farm instruction for women was offered at Canterbury Agricultural College in response to the shortage of labour on New Zealand farms during World War Two. Many of the men who would traditionally be employed in farm work had been called up for the war effort, or had enlisted for active service, and were in training camps or serving their country overseas. The limited availability of farm workers resulted in women being considered for duties they had not conventionally undertaken. The women who enrolled for this course at the College became known as the Land Girls.
The first special six week short course for women was held in residence at Canterbury Agricultural College at Lincoln and commenced on 21 March 1941. The intake comprised of twenty two women who were provided with instruction and training on managing and feeding animals, milking cows, the operational work of a dairy, driving tractors and other farm machinery, and harvesting crops.
A summary titled Femmes as Farmers appeared in the 1941 College Magazine, and along with other contributions to this publication, shows the warm welcome the Land Girls received, and the high regard in which their work was held. In The College Farm it is clear the Land Girls had a significant impact on the shortage of labour and released the College lecturers who had been required to assist at the farm Ashley Dene to keep it running.
The Comedy Menu illustrates the light hearted social interaction the students had at the College, but also provides an insight into the food shortages experienced during the war years.
During this period the College staff who would have been known to and worked with the Land Girls included Cuthbert Tebb, the College Farm Manager from 1940 to 1943, R. H. Bevin who was the senior lecturer in agriculture from 1938 to 1950, Vance Hannah, the College Shepherd from 1936 to 1943, and Miss Evelyn Lilburne, the College Matron from 1935 to 1961.
The compilation of information preserved from this time suggests the short course was an enjoyable experience for the women participating, and a highlight in the calendar for the College students and staff, during a period of wartime constraint and with a war outcome that was at the time unknown.