Wednesday, 30 October 2019 13:55

Dairy motivates top scholars

Written by  Peter Burke
Megan Robertson (left) and Grace Burmeister. Megan Robertson (left) and Grace Burmeister.

Both Massey University’s top scholars for 2019 are from dairy farming families and both are DairyNZ scholarship students.

Megan Robertson who hails from a dairy farm at Hari Hari, West Coast, was named Massey Agriculture Student of the Year.

And Grace Burmeister, whose parents have a dairy farm at Mangatainoka, Tararua District, won the prestigious William Gerrish Memorial Prize. This is for meritorious performance in various farm management papers and for demonstrating a high level of personal integrity, intellectual curiosity, vision and social conscience. The recipient must be interested in a career in farm management or agricultural economics.

Grace Burmeister, newly awarded a BCom, attended Fielding High School before going on to Massey. She says she’s always been passionate about the dairy industry and having worked on her parents’ 1000 cow farm near the Tui Brewery knows what it’s like to be ‘down and dirty’.

Burmeister says she went to Fielding High School to get the agricultural experience.

“I guess from there my passion for the industry grew even more when I did an agri commerce degree at Massey. As a result of this I am going into banking next year as part of a graduate agribusiness programme with BNZ. 

“I have always been passionate about banking and the economics and financial side of farming so I made it my goal to get into banking and I have got there,” she said.

Burmeister likes to see the success stories of farmers and see them succeed to their potential. She says working as a banker will allow her to do that. 

Looking at the future of dairy industry, Grace Burmeister says the environmental side is huge, it will not be fixed overnight and will take time.

“Farmers understand that they have got to work with the Government to progress and make the environment better. Dairy farmers have been hit a lot lately and their morale is very low. So there will be a change, but I think the Government and everyone else needs to understand that this has to come progressively otherwise you are going to get mental health issues,” she said.

She says she’s seen this with her own parents who have had to ride out the ups and downs of the dairy industry. She says people need good support networks such as the Rural Support Trust to help farmers through difficult patches. Initiatives are needed to get farmers off the farm and out into the community and socialising, she says.

Always helping out

The Massey Agricultural Student Award was won by Megan Robertson, newly awarded BAgriCom. The award is for her all round contribution to the university. She also won the Young Farmers Sally Hobson award for her service to the club.

In July, Robertson was part of a team that represented New Zealand at the International Food and Agribusiness Management Association conference and business case study competition in China. The conference theme was on how e-commerce is shaping global agribusiness.

Growing up on the family dairy farm on the West Coast, Megan Robertson says she always knew she would pursue a career in agriculture.

“l studied  agriculture via correspondence when I was attending Nelson Girls College and this sparked more of an interest. From there I decided to go to Massey University to pursue my passion for agri commerce, majoring in international agribusiness. I now have a job working for Fonterra Farm Source in their agribusiness graduate programme in Hamilton,” she said.

Robertson says her upbringing on a dairy farm guided her towards Massey. Her experience at university has broadened her perspective of the agricultural sector. This has been helped in part by her parents’ move from the dairy farm to own an avocado orchard in Bay of Plenty.

“I have tried to do as much as I could while at university and taken any opportunity that I have been given and also helping everyone out wherever I can. 

“I have a passion for getting young people into the industry and have been talking in schools and helping at agri kids competitions and what not. At the moment I want to continue learning and soak up as much as I can and stick my hand up for any opportunities that come my way,” she said.

Longer term Robertson would like to be in a governance position in NZ agribusiness with a longer term goal of going back on farm and running her own business.

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