I had the privilege and pleasure to spend a week of practical training at Cedara Agricultural College in December 2008. What a dreamboat of a place, is Casual-Natal. Or as we say in South Africa: KwaZulu-Natal.
I knew little of Cedara except that the bees at Cedara were very good-tempered in 1919 when naturalist Sidney Skaife arrived there.
From early morning till late afternoon, in all weather, we were jumping on and off the back of a bakkie (pick-up) taking us all around on the expansive, verdant grounds. Cedara has old, well-weathered soils (probably of the Griffin form, we decided around a soil profile in the drizzling rain).
The animal production lecturer, Lu Kobus, took us on a whirlwind tour of Cedara's Hereford herds and risqué anthropomorphism - cattle breeding is all about sex. She proudly told us how students enrol for plant production, but after attending her class, change to cattle farming. And anyway, she tells women students, nothing beats cattle manure to get nails growing. While at Cedara, Farmer's Weekly ran an article on her and her second-year students' National Beef Carcass of the Year award. I showed it to my fellow students; Ms Kobus had made quite an impression on us. The carcass competition, she had explained to us, involves students each adopting a young steer, befriending it, teaching it to walk on a lead in a ring, and then sending it to be slaughtered and its carcass to be judged. A short, sharp lesson in human-animal relationships on a beef farm.
Don, former manager at a sugercane farm, an easygoing, sun-rapped man, showed us how to calibrate a knapsack sprayer , something he did so well, so engagingly, that when he asked us whether we wanted to be tested on the mathematical calculation, all the class enthused: Yes!
Rob Ainslie's practical demonstrations of centrifugal force and water pumps, aided by his own models made of PVC, were textbook examples of pedagogical success. Wandering about in the veld and amidst haymaking with Rod Collett, pasture science lecturer, raptors gliding overhead, dense flocks of tiny birds sweeping up from winter rye fields... my idea of heaven.
Cedara is a national treasure.