Fulbright Scholar Christina Walker: sharing stories of Rotorua dairy farmers

Fulbright Scholar Christina Walker: sharing stories of Rotorua dairy farmers

Christina Walker arrived in New Zealand from Nashville, USA on a Fulbright Scholarship in February 2015. It is Christina’s mission to research how dairy farmers in New Zealand adapt amidst the discussed environmental regulations  while remaining economically sustainable. She is using her journalism skills to carry out agricultural research with farmers around the Lake Rotorua catchment.
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Christina’s interest in agriculture began during her studies at Northwestern University in Chicago. Her political science and journalism degree included research grants to study sustainable agricultural programmes in developing countries. Her research into the United Nations funded ‘Farmer Field Schools’ programme in Northern Uganda in 2012 concerned the benefits of teaching a high input versus low input farm system.

The ongoing costs associated with high farm-inputs led Christina to research New Zealand’s model as an alternative. The Fulbright exchange programme, which offers a range of prestigious exchange awards for New Zealand and American graduate students, gave Christina the means to further her research.

“Upon looking at sustainable agriculture and the framework for how it’s developed, I wanted to study New Zealand’s structure for how farmers strike the balance of a low input model that is also economically effective, ” says Christina.

Some of you may have had the pleasure of meeting Christina through the first phase of her research. She is currently interviewing Rotorua farmers, gathering their stories and experiences of farming in the catchment. The second phase of her research will utilise Christina’s skills in journalism and videography. Once she has completed her fieldwork in November she plans to release a documentary film to the wider Rotorua farming community.

“The film is for people of the community to come together, talk more about this issue, and be able to see things from various points of view that maybe they haven’t considered before. I think storytelling is an important facet to the public policy process. Because policy, at the end of the day, impacts people’s lives, and I think both sides can benefit from understanding the story behind it,” says Christina.

In her spare time Christina enjoys experiencing Rotorua on her road bike. “It’s how I come to know the area, just biking around and seeing the beauty for what it is. People say New Zealand is beautiful, but when you come here, it’s almost humbling everyday just to see how gorgeous it is.”