Agriculture might not be the typical first career choice of someone who has grown up in urban Auckland.
But Vanessa Robinson had relatives in farming and spent a lot of her childhood experiencing some of the primary industries, although she did not come from a farming background herself.
It was not until she got to Massey University and studied agriculture that an interest in the dairy sector started to develop.
‘‘It attracted me. I liked the idea of being out on farm. My driving focus came from my auntie and uncle who were sheep and beef farmers in Taumarunui, but a lot came down to the scholarship and support that DairyNZ gave me.’’
Each year since 2001, Kiwis have had the opportunity to apply for their share of $250,000 worth of scholarships on offer from the dairy industry.
Recipients were supported and mentored throughout their time at either Lincoln, Massey or Waikato Universities, as well as being given opportunities to network with industry leaders.
Ms Robinson applied for the scholarship straight out of school and did not get it.
‘‘I reapplied for my second year, got it and carried on throughout my time at university. I believe it was a combination of good grades in my first year of study combined with a passion for agriculture and coming from an inner city background that secured my place.’’
Getting through a bachelor of agricultural science degree at Massey and going on to do a master’s in agriscience, focusing on dairy cow reproduction, helped secure a first job post-study.
Now Ms Robinson is a developer in the feed and animal team at Dairy New Zealand, a role that covers ‘‘everything to do with cows and grass’’.
‘‘My role at DairyNZ allows me to bridge the gap between science and extension by developing tools, resources and content for farmers when new research comes available. I really enjoy this role as I work in a range of projects and it allows for a balance between office and field work, which is great,’’ she said.
‘‘I am currently the chair of the Tasman Young Farmers Region, which has allowed me to be a part of the national committee of Young Farmers, providing opportunities to be exposed to and learn about governance-level strategies.
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‘‘I am a big believer in creating your own opportunities and developing yourself and believe it really helps to have a mentor.’’
She kept in touch with Susan Stokes, the industry education facilitator for DairyNZ, who helped her understand and give insight into future options straight out of university.
‘‘It gives you someone to bounce ideas off. When you are uncertain of things it gives you a voice of reason. Susan was very helpful with networking and support, but there are other ways to get into the dairy sector besides university.
‘‘Farmers do not need to have degrees to go through farming. A lot of people do take that path, but it is not necessary.’’
Ms Robinson said she knows many gain employment from putting themselves out there and showing an aptitude for work, and DairyNZ is eager to help those in any way it can.
‘‘My passion within dairy is largely focused around the animals and particularly reproduction.
‘‘I feel that there is so much scope within dairy to help support farmers to breed the cows that they want to be farming, and it is so rewarding to be able to see that in action, and to be able to experience that for myself through our own business,’’ she said.
‘‘I am quite keen on owning my own farm so, alongside growing my job with DairyNZ, I contract milk 400 cows with my partner in Burnham. Next stage we are looking to go share milking and from there, farm ownership.’’
If anyone was considering a future in dairy, most farmers would be happy to introduce them to what was involved.
‘‘Get in touch with DairyNZ if you have questions — they will be happy to help you out. Put yourself out there.’’
Central Rural Life