Hi I’m Jessica Kirkpatrick, a 19 year old student, grain analyst and sheep breeder.
I’m from a mixed farming operation in south western Victoria. I loved growing up on our 3000 acre property with sheep, horses, dogs and an array of farm animals. The best part was having all the wide open spaces to explore! Beaufort is our closest town only 10 minutes away and the next rural centre is Ballarat about a 45 minute drive.
Galloping to knock over the tent peg (2011)
The Kirkpatrick’s have been on our home property, “Glenayr” for 150 years. My father took over the farm when my grandfather died and has been a farmer for 41 years. There aren’t many people can say they have stayed in a job for that long! My brother and I are the sixth generation to be apart of the business.
We have always been encouraged to be involved in the farm including animal husbandry activities including shearing, drenching, pregnancy testing, fleece testing and general mustering.
At the age of 12, in partnership with my brother we established the “Jessie James” Border Leicester stud.
Initially, it was a huge shock for an 11 and 12 year old to succumb to the reality of debt! However this project has given me so much. It is the book keeping skills, the understanding of fluctuating markets, the responsibility of checking the lambing ewes before school and selecting desirable traits we wish to breed in our flock.
Droving sheep on horseback was always a common occurrence (2009)
My passion for agriculture has also stemmed from my education. I went to a rural primary school and then high school involved a bus trip every day to go to Ballarat Grammar. At Grammar, I studied agriculture and horticulture in years 10, 11 and 12. I was involved in the school sheep and cattle show teams. These experiences broadened my horizons to see a variety of industries and the potential career pathways.
Lamb marking at the school farm for agricultural studies (2010)
I decided at the end of year 12, I wanted to continue my education in agriculture and now I’m currently studying a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga. At completion I want to become an agronomist. I have a particular interest in soil science and want to assist farmers in increasing yields whilst being economically and environmentally sustainable.
The four months of the year I’m not at university I spend at Lakaput Bulk Storage. This is a facility where grain growers can store their wheat, barley, oats and canola throughout the year and can arrange the selling of the grain to marketers. For the 2011/12 and 2012/13 I was a grain sampler. This role involves collecting a grain sample and then testing it for quality by following a standards chart. In the recent 2013/14 season I was manager of the classification and sampling arm at the site. This has been an excellent experience as it has allowed me to see the importance of an agronomist in grain production, to ensure the grower can make the highest grade and receive the best price. I have also learnt about the grain marketing aspect and how the markets work and how prices are determined. I feel it is my time at Lakaput which has helped me decide that agronomy is the right career choice for me.
Bunkers and Silos are where the grain is stored on site (2014)
The local agricultural show is a large part of my family and personal community involvement. I have competed at horse shows since the age of five and as I have grown older I have taken on more roles within the event. I feel agricultural shows are a place for the community to meet and a way for people to display their best crafts, art, cookery, and livestock, whilst in a healthy competitive environment.
I was awarded the 2013 Victorian Agricultural Shows Junior Ambassador Runner Up at state final. This is a competition that recognises youth involvement at Victoria Agricultural Shows, with criteria including agricultural show involvement, community service, general presentation, general knowledge, ambitions and public speaking ability. At the event I was interviewed by a panel of judges, participated in an on-stage interview and had time to interact with like-minded people. It is at events like this that I can see the sector has a bright future ahead with more younger people coming through the ranks.
Through the RIRDC Horizon Scholarship I have been able to experience the cotton industry. Being Victorian, cotton is a very foreign crop to me. I enjoyed a work placement on a property near Moree in Northern NSW. I was shown the basics of cotton farming and was even lucky enough to spend a day with an agronomist. It truly cemented my career pathway in agronomy and I’m looking forward to many more experiences in this field.
Starting siphons for irrigation (2014)
I’m excited to see the agricultural sector changing and developing in my life time. I’m looking forward to having a career which can take me anywhere around the country or even overseas. The grains industry is of particular interest to me and I’m keen to be able to provide agronomic services to cereal and oilseed producers.
It is important for me to give back to the sector through promotion. One way to do this is through education and showing young people of both urban and rural communities the numerous opportunities our industry has to offer.
We know how good our industry is so we must show it off to others!
“When work, commitment, and pleasure all become one and you reach that deep well where passion lives, nothing is impossible.”
I feel this quote simply sums up my perception on agriculture. It’s not just a job. It is a lifestyle, passion and a place where family and friends meet. This passion is held by many people in agriculture and will ensure we can move forward as a united front and tackle issues such as feeding a global population, because after all who doesn’t like meeting a challenge head on and being part of a success story