Catching up in Dunedin recently were (from left) Hayley
Jenkins-McCaw, Andrew Ritchie (ASB), Prof Jacqueline
Rowarth (Waikato University), Grace Johnstone (AbacusBio),
Sarah Perriam (Rural TV) and Get Ahead project leader Rosie
Todhunter. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Agriculture is ''far more than milking cows and drafting
That was the message from Jacqueline Rowarth, professor of
agribusiness at Waikato University, to a group of Dunedin
secondary school pupils last week.
''It's everything that New Zealand does because New Zealand
business is agribusiness ... Our whole lifestyle is from what
we export,'' she said.
Pupils interested in a career pathway in agriculture were
invited to hear from Prof Rowarth, along with four former
Dunedin secondary school pupils who now work in the rural
Prof Rowarth, who was also guest speaker at last week's
launch of the Otago Rural Business Network in Dunedin, gave
an impassioned address, encouraging the pupils to consider a
career in the sector.
She urged them to think about what the world needed; a vast
number of people wanted high-quality food and that was food
that New Zealand could produce. New Zealand was the most
environmentally efficient food producer in the world.
Prof Rowarth spoke of the considerably higher salaries for
agri-graduates and the small number of those graduates.
''If you know about food production or agribusiness, you can
pick your job,'' she said.
Whether it was an interest in design, civil engineering,
marketing or animal breeding, various career options were
The money was good and the rewards were there. Her students
and classmates were ''everywhere'' making a difference all
over the world, she said.
ASB rural manager Andrew Ritchie, who grew up on a sheep and
beef farm in Otago, started to develop a passion for
agriculture after spending two years in Scotland as a young
Seeing animals housed indoors, he reckoned that ''didn't seem
right'' and, when he returned to New Zealand and saw them
''running around'', that sparked the interest.
After leaving Otago Boys' High School, he headed to Lincoln
University for a commerce degree with a plan to become a
But the plan changed when he headed overseas for four years.
On his return, he got into rural banking and he has now been
a rural manager for 18 months, with a portfolio of clients
around the region.
The most rewarding part of being involved in rural finance
was being part of the ''big decisions'' that farming families
made, he said.
Mr Ritchie encouraged the pupils to be proactive and not sit
back and, in 10 years' time, wish they had looked at a career
The streets of Auckland and Wellington were 'littered'' with
people who had arts degrees but were ''pouring coffee for a
living'', he said.
Hayley Jenkins-McCaw, who is on ASB's Future Me graduate
programme, grew up on a farm near Kurow and boarded at
Although she did not want to be a farmer, she loved farming
and was keen on business, so she completed a BCom Ag, with a
major in rural valuation, at Lincoln.
She was now one-third of her way through the two-year
programme. While based in Otago at the moment, there was an
opportunity to move throughout the country, even worldwide,
through rural banking, she said.
Former Columba College head prefect Grace Johnstone graduated
from the University of Otago in 2011 with a double bachelor's
degree in science, majoring in genetics, and law.
Brought up on a sheep and beef farm near Outram, she never
really considered a career in the primary industries when she
was at school, having not really thought of what was
available beyond the farm gate.
She was now working as a science consultant for AbacusBio, a
Dunedin-based company that works throughout the supply chain,
providing science and business consulting both in New Zealand
While she was not sure what path her career would take in the
future, Ms Johnstone said there were ''a lot of opportunities
out there''. One option was within agribusiness innovation in
a management role.
Former St Hilda's Collegiate School pupil Sarah Perriam said
she created her job as executive producer for Rural TV
because she wanted to be in a business in an industry that
was ''going places''.
As a farm girl, it was the ''coolest industry to be in'', she
A Get Ahead careers day, focusing on promoting career
opportunities in the primary industry, will be held in
Dunedin next year.