Finishing high school and not sure what to do? Considering a career change? Have a read through these current and past students’ insights into why they chose a pathway in agriculture.
Each week we will be posting up a insights into why some of our followers decided to study agriculture. Stay tuned as we add someone new each week.
Jen – Melbourne, VIC – Stock and Land Sales
Hello, I’m Jen. For a kid who grew up in metropolitan Melbourne, agriculture was the furthest thing from my mind. I was a suburban girl who blindly loved luxury brands and city life and disliked dust and smelly farm animals. Needless to say, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I enrolled in the Bachelor of Agriculture at The University of Melbourne.
It was a steep learning curve; I learnt the fundamentals of plants, animals, climate change, water, economics and project management. As a hayfever sufferer, I dreaded the intensive course weeks spent up at Dookie, Victoria. But as the course developed, I gained a new level of respect and admiration for the ag industry. The different types of people involved in contributing to this industry is mind blowing, it’s not just lab researchers and industry research groups, I discovered that basically almost every discipline under the sun can contribute to the agriculture industry in some way.
After graduating, I spent a few months working alongside an independent vegetable agronomist and spent most of my days stuck knee deep in muddy irrigated paddocks in the heat of summer. My first “farming” experience was to conduct and monitor seed variety trials, scout crops, advise farmer of spraying and watering schedules, communicate with quality assurance staff to meet supermarket specifications, participate in vegetable shelf life trials and all the exciting and fun things vegetable production comes with. I went from screaming at the sight of spiders to touching, examining and loving all the good and bad pests. But the long hours required for paddock work was too much for my physical capabilities and I was falling asleep on the drive home. I learnt that while I loved the ability to make an impact in the vegetable industry this job allowed, I really disliked the amount of field work and spending long hours required under the scorching sun. If you’re fit and love the outdoors and the integrated food production system, then vegetable agronomy is the place for you.
I moved on to my current job, an advertising sales and support role in publishing ag media. I had never considered ag media as a possible career pathway for an ag graduate, but I absolutely love it now. And it’s the best seat in the industry with the best exposure to all the different sectors that contribute to the common goal: feed the world. The passion that the people in this industry have is infectious. In my role, I talk to producers and agents and connect them to their desired buyers and communicate their information to their desired market. I assist in corporate sponsorships and marketing agreements and events. I help in internal communications and provide sales and editorial support to our staff. I discovered that I enjoy connecting people and I’m able use that skill to help our producers and agents get their message out there.
Why Study Ag? Because by studying agriculture, I learnt the fundamentals of the industry. I am most definitely not an expert in any area of it, but it provided me with the basic knowledge and skills to look for a particular topic if required. Working in ag media, it really surprised me that there is a lack of confidence of farmers and producers dealing with the media. It maybe goes back to the fact that most of the ag coverage in metro media is pretty negative. This then creates a generation of farmers who is generally quite hesitant to give an honest viewpoint or share their practices because they don’t want to be portrayed in the negative light. Having said that, most producers are innovative and willing to try out new things to improve their operation and share the information and experience with their peers. This is why I’m grateful to have studied ag, so I can communicate those information with people who are eager to learn how their food is produced.
For me, studying agriculture was a pleasant surprise. It has changed my life in ways that I can never imagine, and I am so excited to see where it leads me next.
Jordy Kitschke – Creator of Aussie Farmer Snapchat!
Here’s some of the reasoning behind Jordy’s decision to begin the account.
I guess the motive for starting the account was to communicate (or show off!) what happens on Australian farms, and also more broadly in the Ag industry. I used to put photos on my account and my city mates would always be intrigued by what is happening, so I thought why not try and expand to a larger audience and show a larger diversity of farms.
There are a fair few very successful Instagram Ag pages doing a similar thing to us, but the beauty of Snapchat is the intimacy. With about 8 farmers around Australia uploading photos and videos throughout the day, the viewer feels like they are actually there on the farm, moving sheep, irrigating cotton, or harvesting crops. Throughout the course of a year the followers can follow the growth of a crop from planting through to harvest. It is an incredible medium to communicate through.
The other amazing thing about snapchat is how connected the users are. Within a few minutes of putting a photo or video up, hundreds of people have seen it, it is almost like streaming live from the farm.
We get some amazing feedback from followers saying they love the content we put up, which is so powerful that we can engage and educate people, and hopefully even inspire them to get involved in the industry.
Add aussie.farmer or scan the snap code!
Emma Ayliffe – Griffith, NSW – BSc, MAgSc – Agronomist
Ask Emma Ayliffe about her childhood and she’ll tell you that she “lived the dream”.
For a kid growing up in the north west pastoral country of South Australia, having a two million acre backyard where she could go pony riding, chase sheep, drive tractors and go yabbying, one would certainly have to agree! Growing up on stations and farms, Emma always helped out where she was needed, which was how she developed an interested in agriculture from an early age.
That passion for the industry took her to University of Adelaide where Emma studied a Bachelor of Science – Agricultural Science. Upon completing her Undergrad course, Emma has since undertaken a Graduate Certificate in Cotton Production and is pursuing her Masters in Ag Science. Although she originally thought she’d end up working with animals, her university studies drew her towards the cropping side of the agricultural sector, and that is where she has forged her career.
“I was thinking that I would probably end up working with animals but Uni definitely drew me more towards cropping and that is where I have ended up,” Emma said.
Currently working for Elders, in Griffith as a consulting agronomist, Emma works primarily with cotton, but also helps grow a large range of crops from rice to mungbeans in the summer through to cereals and legumes in the winter.
“The second part of my job is R,D&E which is a brand new role. I help facilitate trials in the southern region for industry as well as suppliers.”
“Once again I am primarily focused on cotton but aim to expand this going forward. I have only been with elders for 6 months. My job is to just try and help the growers to be as productive as possible while ensuring that we are adhering to best practice for our industry.”
Emma hopes to share the good news stories in agriculture and fill the gaps between those in the industry and with those who may find themselves disconnected.
“I feel that it is important for everyone to have their opinion on issues and ideas, but it needs to be an opinion formed on knowledge and understanding, be it good or bad,” she said.
“The agriculture industry is truly amazing, and I feel privileged to wake up every morning and do the ‘job’ that I do, and while slushing around a rice paddy or chasing bugs in the summer may not be everyone’s cup of tea there are so many great opportunities in the industry.”
“The disconnect between people in the agriculture industry and those who are not, now more than ever the social license for agriculture is so important, and it is going to get more important in the future.”
“Having every kid in every school everywhere in Australia know where their food comes from I think is so important,” she said.
Emma said one of the things she would like to see changed in the agricultural industry is the disconnect between those in the agricultural industry and those not.
“People within the industry are often segregated based on what they do i.e. cotton grower, broad acre farmer, sheep cocky and I think as an agriculture industry we need to do a better of job of being a united.”
While she’ll currently be working to complete her masters degree, Emma will also be continuing to share her love for all things agriculture.
“At the moment I want to keep being involved in the broader agriculture industry through programs like Young Farming Champions and Future Cotton Leaders and just take whatever opportunities I am able to earn my way into. Keep working hard and keep learning the ‘art’ and ‘science’ of agronomy,” she said.
Original article used with permission from the Western Magazine.
Calum Watt – Harvey, WA – BSc, MAgSc
G’day! I’m Calum Watt, and I’m currently an Ag student at the University of Western Australia hailing from a town called Harvey in the Southwest of Australia’s biggest state. I’m the eldest of two boys, although still the shortest which is somewhat a laughing matter for the rest of the family. I’ve lived in Harvey most of my life having moved around country communities as the old man got flung from one Ag college to the next.
Whilst farming and agriculture in general have always been an interest for me, I can’t claim that I’m a fourth generation this, or a second generation that, and it’s unlikely that our small hobby farm will be passed down to me (much as I’d like it to be). Nevertheless, I cannot complain with the ‘old Macdonald’ style farm I grew up on; it gave me the opportunity to see what I liked and didn’t in agriculture…sheep being top of that list.
Being a dairy and orchard farming community, Harvey was completely different to the broadacre farms around Narrogin where I hailed from before cow-town. Although I’ve called Harvey home it still gave me a kick to tell people during my schooling that I was from somewhere else, somewhere where agriculture was the driving force of the community. Having schooled in Bunbury, most of my peers were either from farms similar to me or townies as we called them. Although our farms were relatively small people, were often really intrigued about what went on, what we grew, bred or otherwise did and I often got called a country hick even though I seemed far from it.
High school for me was nothing glamorous. I had wanted to attend the local Agricultural College but having my dad as deputy principal meant it would’ve complicated things. School was a means to get to Uni. Math, English, chemistry, physics and geography were the subjects I had at my disposal with the end goal being a Botany degree at UWA. Why Botany? Well I’d always preferred plants, especially crops to animals and Botany was a way of following my agricultural interest without having to do an Ag Science degree and all the animal units that it entailed. To ease my transition from Harvey to Perth I went to a residential college where I met my current friends, who unlike me, are all from broadacre farms dotted around the wheatbelt, something I’m slightly envious about. Being able to travel to their farms deepened my interest in broadacre cropping and on completion of my undergraduate degree, I enrolled straight into a Masters of Agricultural Science specialising in genetics and plant breeding.
Genetics units during my undergrad instilled in me an interest to make meaningful change and the understanding that the nature of farming is changing for good or worse made me want to integrate genetics and crops into the notion that I could become a crop breeder. My ambition is to be the bloke who makes the crosses that result in a crop variety that is bigger and better in every sense possible. Whilst this may be challenging, it gives me drives to excel in my studies and makes me aware of new opportunities to better my understanding of broadacre cropping.
Networking with industry is enabling me to develop a position as a future leader in this field and has provided me with the opportunity to complete my masters research project jointly with a private cereal breeding company Intergrain. If you’re not aware already, aluminium toxicity significantly impacts the ability of a crop to obtain nutrients and water, ultimately resulting in lower yields; something no farmer is out to chase. My thesis looked into this issue from a genetic perspective and tried to ascertain if there were significant benefits to be gained by breeding for genetic tolerance.
No doubt you’re already watering at the mouth at the thought of a cold barley made frothy and it’s in my interest to make sure that aluminium isn’t a factor in depriving you of the opportunity.
The next reasonable step for me is to now undertake a PhD within the breeding and genetic improvement area of research to further my skills and knowledge and ensure that in the future our beer, bread and biscuit supply is sustained in the face of a growing global population. Albeit the application of genetics and breeding can be applied to any crop, plant or even animal so whilst I hark on about wheat and barley I may one day be involved in field pea or rice breeding…..but no matter because beer can still be made from these crops.
So now you may be aware that my path to agriculture has been slightly different to some and how my interest has changed and grown substantially over time. One thing I know for certain is that the agricultural sector is so diversified intriguing that something exciting is always popping up and this is why I want to be a part of it and why you should too.
Nick – Perth, WA – BSc (Agricultural Science) Final Year
Everyone has a story about why they ended up where they eventually do. To start a family, to build a life, to find a passion that will keep you motivated to climb out of bed every morning. Some are luckier than others, and fall into it pretty quick, others spend more of their life finding out who they are and what they do.
I remember how it all started for me, every year Dad would jump on the seeder again, starting off another season. I would be at home, pinning a bunch of nails through a piece of timber and dragging it behind my toy tractor, making furrows in the sandpit as if I was running my own farm. As a kid down in Broomehill it was a pretty good life, riding the bus to school every day and seeing who’s fences were down, letting a few lambs wander on to the road.
We called on the family a number of times through the years as we moved from the great southern, to Geraldton. In a car of 3 people, two screeching birds and a euthanized cat with a fully loaded truck in toe, the journey was made and our lives changed forever. We farmed in Eradu, but after a couple of bumper years, Dad took the chance to move us all again, down to Watheroo. So, again, the extended family was called and a convoy of cars, utes and farm machinery made the hike to start what we thought would be our life in Watheroo.
Everything thereafter became a blur. Dad rushed to get the crop in, get it sprayed and catch up on lost time with the move, and soon after got diagnosed with cancer. This meant another move, down to Perth for treatment. The season only finished up with the help of countless people from around the state, without whom we would have ended up in a very different story.
He died 6 months after his diagnosis, a day before the harvest was finished in Watheroo.
For me, studying agriculture is a way back. It’s a pathway that opens up doors to give back to the community, the community that harvested that crop in Watheroo, the community accepts anyone with a passion. While I may never be a farmer, I know I have the skills to contribute to the life of farmers and those that rely on them for employment or produce.
Nick – Geraldton, WA- B.Sc (Agriculture)/ Agronomist
There seems to be a lot of people that are exposed to agriculture at a young age who then get involved in the industry as adults. Personally, I think the joy of seeing farm animals and tractors conditions kids appropriately, and then when career decision time comes around, they give it some thought.
I grew up on a farm in the Mid-West of WA. Native animals, machinery, and wearing gum boots were all part of my childhood. It’s no surprise then that I went back to study agriculture at a tertiary level. Many farm kids do, but I didn’t expect to enjoy the course as much as I did. I was exposed to many different aspects of science, which surprisingly (to me) has been a great grounding for working in the industry. In school, I really enjoyed the science subjects, but at a university level it was particularly rewarding as I was able to apply them to my own experiences, as well as in the lab classes. Obviously, many university courses have labs and tutorials, but seldom do they allow you to see directly how applicable they can be to the industry. I got to meet and work with great people, all of whom demonstrated general aptitude and enthusiasm that would put a kelpie to shame. Although passionate people occupy all industries, I personally think agriculture has them in droves.
Also, I got to learn things that were directly applicable to my experience and job aspirations. Sure, this is a sign of a great cohort and a great course. But in no other degree would I have been able to get elbows deep into an emu to get a hands on approach to animal reproductive biology.
But those reasons are probably a bit different again to why I enjoy working in agriculture. In my role as an Agronomist, I am routinely working with growers and other industry members. I get to collect and disseminate information, which can solve problems and overcome obstacles to food production. I get to look into interesting environmental interactions, and look for answers to strange, and sometimes obscure questions. I also like that farmers in general appreciate the environment. Often, local environmental sustainability corresponds to increased longevity of the business and the broader environment. This means a continued commitment to providing food to feed the world- a truly noble cause.
But, I would be lying if I said my favourite part wasn’t wearing gumboots and tractors. The early developmental conditioning obviously worked!
Now that I have been involved in the industry, I feel I can identify why other people should study agriculture. It gives the opportunity for extensive networking, being involved with passionate characters, and the opportunity to travel. I think I would struggle to find someone who is not attracted by these prospects! But most of all, being involved in an industry that literally makes food out of sunshine and air is highly rewarding. Also, the industry is diverse, ensuring that almost everyone would be able to find a fit here. Further, if you can be offered a job before you even graduate then the industry must have something going for it! At the very least, I think a career in agriculture is something that everyone should consider. Unfortunately, not everyone gets to experience agriculture at a young age, so it is up to the industry to improve dialogue and try and sell it better!
Sam – Canberra – 3rd year Bachelor of Agricultural Science, New Colombo Plan Scholar in Sri Lanka with the International Rice Research Institute.
Three reasons why I am an agriculture enthusiast:
- It empowers you to make a genuine difference. Every day, 21,000 people die of hunger-related causes. There are many interconnected ways to combat this number. However, I see increasing the productivity and sustainability of our food production systems to be the most effective. Agriculture is a mechanism that enables you to help all people – rich and poor, black and white, adults and children. A career in agriculture is a career putting food on people’s plates and clothes on people’s backs… what could be more rewarding than that?
- It contains more variety than a Lego set. Agriculture challenges you to think laterally, vertically, diagonally, edgeways, depthways and crossways. For example, rice blast is a plant disease that destroys 10-35% of global rice production every year. To tackle this disease, you have to look at it from all angles. Through hardcore biology, you look at how the disease-causing fungus evades detection by a plant and kills it. Through aeronautical engineering, you discover the spread and impact of the disease using drones and satellites. Through business and economics, you weigh up the most viable disease management strategies. Through sociology, you work out how to encourage farmers to adopt these strategies. The list never ends.
- It can and will take you everywhere. I am a humble city kid from Canberra that has studied agricultural science at university for two and a half years. In that time, I have worked on a marine salmon farm in Tasmania, a winery in the Barossa Valley, the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, a microbiology laboratory at the CSIRO and a rooftop community garden in central Sydney. This semester, I am continuing my studies in agricultural science in the mountains of Sri Lanka. After that, I am undertaking a crop modeling internship in Southern India.
In view of these reasons, I bash my head trying to understand why some people are not agriculture enthusiasts.
Britt – Wagga Wagga NSW – 4th year Bachelor of Agricultural Science
Hi my names Britt, I’m a 4th year Bachelor of Agricultural Science student at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga NSW. I choose to study agriculture based on my desire to do something I loved and had a passion for. Growing up on our family’s mixed sheep and cropping farm, I knew that the farming industry had a huge story to tell and it was something that I wanted to know more about. I also knew I loved helping people and that farmers were facing new challenges, with climate change and the growing needs of the world for food and fibre into the future. This was a challenge I wanted to be a part of, to help grow our production nationally and ensure its sustainability.
Around the time that I was starting to choose a career in year 10, agriculture graduates were in the rural media quite a lot, mainly for the severe lack of them. The figures they were quoting back then were around 4 jobs for every 1 graduate that Australia produces annually. This also helped my desire to study agriculture, as I thought that I am pretty much guaranteed a job at the end of my degree.
I knew that farming can be tough, you need to be resilient & adaptive, & always have a positive attitude, something I have seen in both my parents. This inspired me to follow my love for agriculture and play my part in the challenges agriculture had ahead. This was a decision I have come to love even more as I continue in my degree, and begin to prepare for my entry in the industry as an agricultural graduate!
Guy – Western Australia – 4th year BEnvSys (Hons) and BSc (Ag Science)
Many years ago, when I was finding my passion for agriculture, I loved it for the open spaces, the machinery (many tractor/farming themed parties have been had), the tractors and the ability to produce such a vast quantity of grain from so many small, individual plants. I mean who does a year seven report on the agricultural soils of Esperance! Further, tending to a whole field and see it grow through different conditions certainly has an appeal, despite the possible risk of poor yields.
Yet the grain farming facet of agriculture, one that most people think to when upon hearing the word, is but a small fraction of the opportunities presented within the industry, but an incredibly important component nonetheless. It was this diverse array of opportunities in combination with passion that each person demonstrates that made me reconsider medicine for agriculture. So what are all these ‘diverse’ opportunities I speak of, you may ask? I can hear you say “but I’ve always wanted to work with lasers and be a physicist!” well dream no more, lasers abound in the field of remote sensing and imaging in crops.
Well for one, basically every discipline within natural sciences, pure sciences, maths, IT, life sciences, law, politics, economics, finance, accounting, history and education and many more than I can currently think of are involved in agriculture in some way. The knowledge and skills I learnt in anatomy and human biology were incredibly useful in other ag science units on animal production and animal management.
So with all that in mind I know that the agricultural industry, with its diverse career pathways, is for me. Yet I am still uncertain on exactly what I will be doing. I love advocating the incredible nature of agriculture and hence am drawn to working in agricultural policy development, however I love the technology side of life and the forefront of precision agriculture. The most exciting aspect is that ag caters for all these desires and more!
And if that wasn’t enough to convince you, the agricultural graduates are desperately wanted in most areas, providing certainty that what you study will be useful in where you work.