Todays guest blog post comes from Kirsty McCormack. Kirsty is a lover of horses and all things cotton,a converted Ag ‘fag’ and 2nd year Rural Science student at UNE.
My story starts 19 years ago in the little country town of Inverell.
My hometown is situated in the New England North West region of New South Wales and is a thriving commercial and service centre with a district population of 18,000.
I have been immersed in the rural side of life every since i was a youngster, which to me is much like the bright side of life. I have ridden horses since I was two with my family and I campdraft most weekends.
I have played Polocrosse, competed at state and national horse riding events and won national titles – all for a great love of horses.
As well as having a passion for sport, I have definitely tried my hand at a range of things and found that I haven’t completely embarrassed myself 100% of the time!
After growing up on a 75 acre property 8kms out of town with a multitude of 20 plus working dogs, 15 or so horses and a few cattle and sheep which has provided meat for our freezer it is a wonder that I did not have my heart set on a future in agriculture. But that was not the case, I was a head strong driven young girl who had decided that being a lawyer was the ideal occupation for someone that would go head to head with her mother on a regular basis, claiming that she was ‘always right’. So at Holy Trinity School Inverell I nurtured my skills, studying Japanese and Commerce as electives and avoiding agriculture at all costs, assuming that it was only associated with dead end jobs with poor pay. How wrong was I!
It was not until I left the familiar surroundings of Inverell and went to Calrossy Anglican School that I was introduced to this ‘brighter side of life’!
My lines for year 11 did not match up so I had to take Agriculture instead of Religion, and was pleasantly surprised when my teacher Brony Nielsen stepped into the room.
Fun on the farm
In 2011 with Brony’s encouragement I led a cow for the first time, took up meat judging, attended the biannual Cotton Australia Cotton Conference, went to RYAG Cattle Camp and was voted Karrawarra House Sporting Captain.
Calrossy opened doors for me that I didn’t even know existed. Being able to lead cattle at Sydney and regional shows has allowed me to make some great contacts in the cattle industry
Being the Junior Inter Collegiate Meat Judging Champion at Scone Beef Bonanza in 2011 is another amazing notch to have on my belt. One of the most astonishing experiences was the opportunity to attend the Cotton Conference thanks to WinCott and Georgie Carrigan.
Attending 2010 Cotton Conference with Calrossy Anglican College
The opportunity to meet so many interesting and diverse professionals in the cotton industry and seeing what the cotton industry has to offer I was absolutely blown away by the innovation, eagerness and pride that everyone there exuded about their passion – cotton. To start with I was going in blind, after only wearing the fibre I had no idea when the plant was grown, what it entailed or the mechanisms used to actually produce a real of cotton, so naturally I came home a little overwhelmed and all hyped on information thinking, about all the possibilities that this little plant had to offer me.
So as I entered year 12 my aspirations and goals began to change, I started investigating degrees and universities that had a strong agricultural line and program.
PICSE Youth Roundtable 2012
Here is where I was introduced to PICSE (Primary Industry Centre for Science Education) and the student industry placement scholarship. PICSE provided me with a week jam-packed with sessions, presented by the most energetic scientists, farmers, growers, researchers and students imaginable. I got a taste of what could be really achieved by the agricultural industry, through being able to witness the latest research in mitigating methane production in cattle, rotating dairy’s, greenhouses and grain operations I was no longer hoodwinked by the dead end, bad pay idea. Instead I now think agriculture is one of the most forward thinking, innovative, young industries in this country and the world today. You can have a look at what other young PISCE graduates have to say here
Within my year 12 syllabus we also carried out a Cotton Study which entailed a field trip and farm visit. This trip definitely re-enforced what I had been so awe inspired by the previous year and only fuelled my fire towards being involved in the cotton industry. I got to jump in cotton, be in cotton, feel cotton and help grow cotton. We got in, on and around the module builders the buggies, and pickers. This was enough to send me over the edge – in love with cotton.
From this trip and PICSE I continued through my final year with a new direction and new motivation, getting involved in all aspects of boarding school life and loving every moment. I graduated with great marks and a great time, enough to get me straight into university the following year at UNE studying a Bachelor of Rural Science.
So through the summer naturally I went bug checking and nutrition sampling.
Carol Sanson at Cotton Growers Services at Gunnedah took me on after meeting on the excursion earlier that year, and I thoroughly cherished and enjoyed every moment of it. From literally counting bugs, to meeting farmers, sending leaf and petiole samples and driving the forklift, the whole experience was amazing and has benefited me throughout my studies at university. I was sad to leave the job and not finish the season as the end of the week came around all too soon before picking started.
I am definitely one very lucky university student though, on arriving in first year I was lucky enough to have been awarded financial assistance in the way of four amazing scholarship. With my ATAR I was awarded the UNE Country Scholarship, and three industry prizes, the Royal Agricultural Society Foundation Scholarship, Australian Wool Education Trust Fund Scholarship and RIRDC Horizon Scholarship. Within these amazing opportunities my 2012 year was full of motivating and exciting events that I was able to participate on and present at. I had two trips to Canberra one being awarded as a PICSE Ambassador, going into parliament house and presenting the findings from out Youth Round Table Discussion, and another with the Horizon scholars where we had an opportunity to make invaluable contacts and be heard on the Country Hour LIVE! Attending the 2012 Cotton Conference where I spoke to students, presenting at numerous PICSE events/functions and going to Sydney Royal, has all made for a busy year! Through participating in college life I am now an Academic advisor and on a leadership scholarship at St Alberts College and loving being able to help students learn about science.
I think the agricultural industry has a lot to offer every individual, through the little chunk I have been able to experience and been apart of thus far has only spurred me on towards aligning my future with the future of agriculture. I will never give up my horses and the link I have to the land through my dogs and cattle but with this newfound passion for cotton I can definitely see myself being a plant fanatic. When I finish my Rural Science degree I would like to complete a diploma of education to inspire other students the way my agricultural teacher did, I would like to go on an “agriventure”, be involved in research, be a cotton agronomist and one day a farmer’s wife! – But not just yet.
I am so excited to be involved in this great opportunity to show others how Bright a Lighter Side of Life can be!