The Montana Flat Cadetship

" To be a farmer you must be a jack of all trades. To be a farmer on the Montana Flat you must be a jack of life. Our summer program is designed to help you become just that. "

Zebulon Horrell - Montana Flat

About Montana Flat

The Property

The Montana Flat is a family owned sheep farm near Riversdale, Southland. 

It is 400ha of intensively farmed flat lands, currently undergoing an exciting transition into a more well rounded and life-centric model.

Large scale sheep business

The primary endeavour on the property is the 4000 breeding ewe operation. It is a well oiled ship with a rich history and impressive statistics.  

It is a conventionally run system with relatively low inputs and, lately, a shift to push those even lower.

Regenerative Farming

We have been experimenting with ‘regenerative agriculture’ for 2 years. It could be argued we have been farming regeneratively for decades. 

Recently, however, more attention is placed on things like soil health, nutritional density, insect populations and stock happiness in our decision making process. 

This season we will be direct drilling 35ha of multi-species winter crops as well as experimenting with a number of other management trials.

Burning Horse

We host one of Southland’s premier music and arts events – 

Burning Horse!

It is a multi-faceted festival with live music, DJ’s, workshops, speakers, floating and a giant flammable horse sculpture. We’ve built the stages, bar, sound hut and sweat lodge ourselves using wind-blown trees from our forestry block. 

Polyculture Paddock

Montana Flat is the pilot site for an emerging food production movement – Polyculture Paddock – making the conversion from grass to garden easier, faster, and better by drilling a diverse selection of flowers, herbs and vegetable species simultaneously.


Permaculture is the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient. It is a set of design principles centered on whole-systems thinking, and it  is a lens through which we view all developments on the property. 

Polyculture Paddock and the shift toward RA fit within this approach, so do our gardens, food forest, beehives, and the inclusion of pigs, chickens and horses on the property. 

We also have started a small native nursery and are in the early stages of a wetland restoration project.


Burning Horse, and the lead up to it, is a riot of good times and great characters.  The good times are enjoyed throughout the year though with a number of activities on the farm. 

The Montana Flat boundaries with the Mataura River and the juncture acts as the festival site, a place for swimming, kayaking, hanging out, fishing for brown trout or enjoying a round of disc golf on one of our two private courses. 

Our second course is found in the pine plantation which is also home to our paintball course.

Local attractions

We are surrounded by some of NZ’s most iconic and awe-inspiring terrain. 

We are half an hour drive from Dolamore Park and Piano FlatAn hour more will take you to Fiordland or the Catlins. We have local mountain biking trails and rock climbing areas. 

Gore and Te Anau host a number of attractions, so in spite of the rural nature, there is an active social scene with regular social  events,  but if you’re feeling the need to get into the city, Invercargill, Queenstown and Dunedin all sit within a 2-hour drive from the farm.

What is the Montana Flat Cadetship?

Our Cadetship is a hands-on, work/life experience. You will be exposed and involved with our projects through exploring agri-tourism, event management, regenerative agriculture, permaculture, eco-construction and more.

If your application is shortlisted we will contact you to arrange a phone call to further discuss the position. If you seem like the right fit,  there’ll be a 2 week trial period to feel out the relationship before fully getting into the program.

Ideally, a Cadetship will last 6 months, from Spring through Autumn. Applications for a shorter stay (2-month minimum) or longer stay (a year or more) will be accepted on a case by case basis.


Accommodation and basic food needs will be provided for the duration of your time here. 

Your board will be in the exquisite farm manor, and we take pride in the quality of meals each night; however, if you wish to organize your own accommodation that is absolutely fine with us.


You will be expected to work an average of 8 hours a day, 4 days a week. Work will consist of any range of jobs required of our various ventures. 

They will range from weighing lambs to carving wooden signs, propagating trees to helping construct an outdoor sauna. At times the role will be focused on the day-to-day operations of the sheep farm, including tractor work, stock work, shearing, and drenching. 

At other times the work may be more orientated toward the garden or random creative projects. Some tasks will require you to be assisting full-time farm staff, but others will require that you be motivated by your own intellect and initiative.  

Volunteer day

As well as the 4 days a week on the farm, you will be asked to complete 1-day a week of volunteer work. 

This could be for one of our sister organizations, Reforest Southland, Riversdale Community Garden, or any other charitable cause of your choosing.

Personal Growth

This property has healing properties, and a barefoot walk by the river can be more powerful than any practice we could suggest. 

That being said, you will have the opportunity to participate in personal development activities ranging from goal setting and physical training through to QI gong and breathwork. A focus on wellbeing doesn’t just aid physical and mental health, but self reliance and productivity as well.  

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

Personal projects

Graduating the cadetship requires the completion of two personal projects. One left brain, or productive, and one right brain, or creatively orientated. 

Because we function best when both sides of our brain are engaged (the brain hemispheres are used as guidelines not strictly one or the other), we encourage the ability to draw on both. 

The project focus will be yours to decide but some examples could be:

Left brain

  • Organising something
  • Building an outdoor sauna
  • Mushroom cultivation
  • Breeding chickens
  • Raising goats
  • Developing a marketing strategy
  • Starting a worm farm

Right brain

  • Creating something
  • A Large mural
  • Wooden sculpture
  • Pasture painting
  • Garden mandala
  • Photography
  • A healing balm
  • Writing a poem


Alongside the practical side of learning, the inherent learning of novel living, and that involved with your personal project, there will be an element of digital study. This will be a combo of self-guided and directed study. 

It will be designed to compliment your practical work and not be too onerous or time-demanding. There will be a series of external educators to learn from them their specialty.


We try to operate under something of a regular schedule, but we also like to maintain flexibility. 

If you have a wedding to attend or want to hit a great walk, or need to pop home for a week, we can accommodate to that. 

Communication is key; we can all adjust our plans. No worries.


If you are selected you will have to pay a deposit of $180 which will be refunded after your first week in the program. 

The program has zero fees – the initial deposit is just to filter out time wasters!

Who are we looking for?​

About You

The goal of the Cadetship is to provide preparation for a rural life or career. This program is only for you if you have an interest, or a passion, in pursuing a rural life.

Your background or level of experience is less important than your mindset. You could be a lifelong farmer wanting to diversify or upskill or you could be a lifelong tradie / techie realising that your vocation is in sustainable food production. 

Practical experience of some nature would be helpful, but what is most necessary is: commitment, the ability to learn, a genuine work ethic and a positive attitude.

What does it take?

What differentiates this property from the average New Zealand sheep farm is our focus on entrepreneurship. 

It takes a certain set of skills to be a farmer and a different set to be an entrepreneur. 

Here are a couple blogs that might inspire questions like: “Is this the path for me?” or “Which of these traits do I have inherently and which could I foster to strengthen?

What are you waiting for?

Apply now

If you need a perfectly oiled machine, this probably isn’t the organization for you. 

If you want to experience the rural life but are unprepared to give yourself fully to it, then you needn’t apply for this particular program. 

But… if you are passionate about learning, growing and life, if you are keen to experience a unique rural perspective and explore diversity in land use opportunities, if you are value driven and prepared to advance your life capacity then we welcome your application for the Montana Flat Cadetship 🙂

Please complete and submit the form to the right…