Former AgResearch employee Bronwyn Smaill at her home on the Taieri. Photo Craig Baxter.
AgResearch's Invermay research centre has been a big part of
Bronwyn Smaill's life.
Not only has she worked there, in two separate stints, but
she also lived in a house on the Invermay farm for 10 years,
moving out only three months ago when she and her husband
Wayne built their ''dream home'' on the Taieri.
So when AgResearch announced its proposed restructuring,
which involved concentrating research and administration in
Palmerston North and Lincoln, the news was devastating.
Mrs Smaill (38) was faced with two choices - to stay at
Invermay and continue with what she described as her ultimate
job before moving to Canterbury, in about three years,
leaving behind her new home, family and friends, or to move
on and use her skills elsewhere.
Taking a pragmatic approach, the self-described Southern girl
chose the latter and began work with Gore-based fertiliser
company Mainland Minerals on September 23.
Mrs Smaill was not bitter about the restructuring; rather,
she was positive about embarking on a ''new chapter'' in her
Originally from Lee Stream and brought up on a farm, she
started work at Invermay straight from leaving school,
working in the soil fertility service and doing soil testing.
She worked there for five years and ''absolutely loved it''
before being made redundant. She then worked in the
University of Otago anatomy department for 10 years before
deciding she wanted to get back into the rural sector
''because that's where my heart lies''.
She worked in the laboratory with Prof Frank Griffin for
seven months at the university, doing Johne's disease
research, before the job as research associate came up at
Invermay six years ago - her ''ultimate job''.
The position was with the reproduction group and the work was
interesting. She was involved with various projects,
including embryo survival in sheep, and had written several
She spent about half her time in the field, working with
animals and doing trials, and the other half in the
''It was the perfect job, outside over summer, inside over
winter,'' she laughed.
She worked with a ''fantastic'' group and the work they did
was worthwhile, she said.
Everyone in the group was dedicated. ''I worked some
incredibly long hours at AgResearch. I didn't do it because I
was told I had to do it, I did it because I loved the
research that was happening.''
Then came the well-signalled announcement from AgResearch -
''I knew the writing was on the wall'' - and she was faced
with making a decision about her future.
Moving to Canterbury was not an option for Mr and Mrs Smaill
who were committed to Otago, particularly the Taieri where
they both had strong ties.
They had bought 16ha of land at Maungatua two years ago,
where they have built their new home.
They could never afford to buy an equivalent property in
Christchurch and there was also their lifestyle, along with
family and friends they did not want to leave.
''I'm a Southern girl, that's me,'' she said.
Mr Smaill, the newly-elected president of the Otago-Taieri
A&P Society, was also Otago born and bred, originally
He has worked on the farm at Invermay for the past 20 years,
with that milestone officially marked earlier this week. His
position was unaffected by the restructuring and he loved his
job, Mrs Smaill said.
Joining Mainland Minerals was a big change for her, as she
had never been involved in sales, but she was enthusiastic
about the job.
''Actually getting out there and being with farmers, that's
me. It was really daunting going to an interview where you
know that you've got the rural background but sales, for me,
is completely non-existent.
''It was convincing them that I can talk the talk that
farmers can talk and I understand what their needs are. I
think that's a big advantage to a position like that.''
Mrs Smaill was able to work from home, using her new office,
and use her many connections in the farming industry.
From their home, she was able to look straight down the
Taieri Plain to the Invermay farm which was home for a
''It was a lifestyle for us. AgResearch was our life,
basically. At the end of the day, I walked out the door, up a
hill and was home.''
She would be maintaining an interest with what happened at
Invermay; she still had her ties there, with her husband
working there, along with friends, and through her new job,
she would need to look at what research was being done.