Growing the future - Elders Rural Services
female-graduate-agronomist-learns-from-mentor

Growing the future

The next generation of agronomists are in their first weeks at Elders, carrying on a 181-year tradition.

While we have a solid team of technical specialists, servicing agronomy and livestock production services, our eyes are always on the horizon, looking for opportunities to grow. Recruiting and developing the next generation of agronomists is crucial.

The Thomas Elder Institute manages the Elders Graduate Agronomy Program, which puts aspiring agronomists through a two-year program of on-the-job learning. Graduates work in rotations across the branch network, covering horticulture and broadacre industries.

Exposing developing agronomists to a variety of crop sectors and regions provides them with a holistic learning experience. In many cases, participants enter the program believing they will work in a particular sector but, exposed to the alternatives, they change the crop type, sector or region of focus.

“Mentors I dealt with were extremely switched-on agronomists with so much experience in the area, and they really wanted to help.”

The success of graduate development is underpinned by the involvement of senior agronomic Elders staff across Australia. Their mentorship and guidance support the development of graduates as they grow. Exposure to multiple mentors throughout the program provides perspective on different strategies to provide agronomic services and support clients.

The graduate program has a history of leading to career success, with many previous participants going on to successful roles in agronomy or diversifying their involvement in the business into rural products management or branch management roles.

Entering the program in 2015, Diana George relished the opportunity to explore different farming systems and build connections with mentors.

“Mentors I dealt with were extremely switched-on agronomists with so much experience in the area, and they really wanted to help,” Ms George said.

“I originally come from central-west New South Wales, so the Darling Downs was something I’d never experienced before, and I really enjoyed it. They’d go from a summer crop to winter crop and back into a summer crop, weather permitting. Then I moved down into Ballarat and the Mortlake area, which is effectively a high rainfall zone.

“The program gave me a understanding of agriculture from south-east Queensland down to south-west Victoria, which is important so that you don’t get tunnel vision in one area.”

Ms George has since returned home to become Nyngan’s rural products sales manager but still keeps in touch with the network of colleagues she met up and down Australia during the agronomy program.

“The program has also helped me build contacts in all these different regions who might have a fresh idea that you didn’t even think of to solve a problem,” she said.

Elders was delighted that 150 hopefuls applied for the 2021 intake. After an arduous interviewing process, nine outstanding graduates started their journey to agronomic excellence.

The Elders Graduate Agronomy program is open to tertiary students who have graduated in the last three years. Applications for the 2022 intake will open in June this year.

For more information, please contact Michael Wilkes, head of the Thomas Elder Institute.

Article written by Dr Michael Wilkes of the Thomas Elder Institute.

Read more from our latest Seasons magazine

Read more