For Sharna Holman a career in cotton sparked by Ag in the Classroom

Today we are catching up with Sharna Holman who I invited to write a blog in 2012. You can find it here  Its so rewarding to find four years later a young girl from the city so inspired by her journey from Ag in the classroom to the Sydney Royal Easter Show and a scholarship to the Australian Cotton Conference now fulfilling her dreams with a career in Cotton

This Sharna’s update ……..

My name is Sharna Holman, a born and bred Sydneysider and since I could remember I have had a love of animals, being outside and working with others. However these days while a lot of that is the same, home is in Emerald, Central Queensland and I work in agriculture loving everything it has to offer. But the real question is how did a Sydney girl end up in Central Queensland working in the cotton industry?

Over four years ago I spoke to and wrote a blog titled Sydney Show a Career Maker for Lynne Strong about how influential the Sydney Royal Easter Show and agricultural shows can be on young people thinking of becoming involved in the agricultural industry. I was extremely fortunate in attending Muirfield High School, in Sydney’s north-west, which had a farm where my passion for agriculture was quickly sparked. Students had the opportunity to participate in competitions at agricultural shows as well as being involved in Art4Agriculture’s own The Archibull Prize program. It’s these opportunities that encourage students like myself, particularly those who don’t come from agricultural backgrounds, to find out more about the industry and the different career paths available.

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Muirfield High School’s food and vegetable display at the Sydney Royal Easter Show
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 Muirfield High School’s Archie on display in the Food Farm in 2011.

At the end of school, I definitely knew I wanted to be involved in agriculture so began studying a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture at the University of Sydney because of the diverse subject options and professional development available. I went into the degree not being exactly sure what I wanted to do but throughout the four years I went through so many options: geneticists, agricultural marketing and communications, researcher, agricultural teacher, agronomist? Whatever I was learning during the semester I loved and wanted to learn more. Throughout my degree I grabbed as many opportunities as possible that helped me learn more about the agricultural industry and interests within the industry.

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The University of Sydney team coming 2nd place at the Grain Growers National Universities Crop Judging Competition in 2015.

In 2014 I was awarded a Cotton Australia scholarship, having the opportunity to attend the 17th Australian Cotton Conference on the Gold Coast. I left the conference having learnt about Cry proteins toxins used in plant breeding, pickers, fibre quality, marketing Australian cotton as an ethically and sustainably produced fibre and so much more, as well as having had the chance to network and learn from the experience of growers, researchers, and people who work in the industry in many capacities.

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A really good question would be, ‘Sharna, cotton? Have you ever seen a cotton plant before going to the cotton conference?’ and the answer would be a definite no, but did I want to learn more, yes!

It was through networking with researchers at this conference that I organised my honours project investigating the development of tolerance to toxin in Helicoverpa moths, one of the main pests in the cotton industry, with the assistance of a CRDC Summer Scholarship. So in the Summer of 2014 – 2015 I moved to Narrabri and began working on my honours project at the Australian Cotton Research Institute. It was here that I learnt so much more about the cotton industry, agronomy and pest management through having the chance to spend time with researchers and assist with trials. I finished university knowing that I would love the chance to work and be further involved in the cotton industry.

Early this year I was fortunate in getting a job I love, in an industry I love and made the 16 hour journey from Sydney to Central Queensland. I work in the cotton industry as an Extension Officer working with growers helping them connect to research to improve their productivity and profitability, while also having a role in CottonInfo, the cotton industry’s extension program, as Technical Specialist for Disease, Ratoon and Volunteer Management. Even though I have only been working in my role for a short period time, I absolutely love the feeling of waking up to a job I love.

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I  assist with research trials occurring around Central Queensland. This trial is exploring the different planting windows growers have the opportunity to plant in with the release of Bollgard III in the 2016 – 2017 season.

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 I get to meet, work with a variety of different growers and people.

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 I have the chance to learn new things everyday

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I don’t have a ‘normal’ working day. Some days I will be in a field working on a trial, other days I might be in a meeting, or you could find me at my desk analysing results or writing up an article on crop protection for growers. Some days I even get to have an awesome view from the picker.

I am so lucky to be involved in an industry where the growers, researchers and industry members are incredibly innovative and passionate. The cotton industry is constantly trying to look for new ways to be sustainable and efficient while remaining productive throughout the entire production chain. Everyday I look forward to helping growers find and obtain information through resources, trial results and workshops.

I believe anyone can find a role they would love within the agricultural industry, whether that be within research, business, marketing, farm management, mechanics and robotics – there are so many different career paths. However for someone without an agricultural background, often agriculture is misunderstood and people only see the surface. Opportunities like participating in events ( or volunteering) at agricultural shows and the Art4Agriculture’s Archibull Prize program allow you to get a hands on view and see the exciting agriculture sector I see with boundless cutting edge career opportunities.

2 thoughts on “For Sharna Holman a career in cotton sparked by Ag in the Classroom

  1. Such an inspiring young woman!! We need young go-getters like these to be role models and share their experiences in achieving goals ‘outside the box’. I look forward to hearing more about her as her career keeps moving forward! Thank you Sharna 🙂

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