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Mel Cann and Darryl Pearl's success story

Melissa Cann works with Agriculture Victoria as the department’s Northern Grains Manager.

Melissa grew up in the outer suburbs of Melbourne and developed a love of the outdoors; “where I grew up, there were old pear and apple orchards across the district. There was a small farming property that we used to spend all of our spare time mucking around on,” she said.

Mel studied a range of maths and science subjects in year 12 but was unsure of the career pathway she wanted to pursue. “Reflecting back, I had forestry, horticulture, agriculture subjects on my potential university list and Agricultural Science at Latrobe was what was chosen for me,” she said. “I happily accepted it and I haven't regretted one minute of doing the degree, it got me to where I am today.”

Mel’s first job in the industry was as a Soils Research Officer in South Australia, conducting trials and presenting her research to a wide range of farmers. She then worked for Primary Industries and Resources, South Australia, for 12 years.

She has now been with the Agriculture Victoria for 16 years. “I have enjoyed every bit of my career because it's changed so much, and I've learned along the way. Starting off green was really daunting but, at the same time, exciting,” she said.

“Some career highlights have been working in research and having the opportunity to work on some major programs which had a real collaborative feel about it, and having great team members where you learned so much along the way.”

Melissa’s colleague, Darryl Pearl, started working with the Department of Agriculture thirty years ago. He is now Senior Officer for Relief and Recovery Coordination in Agricultural Services and Biosecurity.

Darryl grew up in a town in the Goulburn Valley, and like Melissa, he also quickly developed a love of working outside, “I come from a town which was dominated by the milk factory and friends who were off dairy farms and going to fruit farms to collect fruit,” he said. “So I was pretty well exposed to irrigation, dairy and horticulture from the earliest time that I can remember. I never envisaged having an office job.”

When Darryl left school he picked up different part-time jobs, from milking cows, fencing, working in the milk factory on assembly and processing lines, to also working in a meal feed factory producing food for pigs.

His first job with the department was agricultural farmhand work, doing anything from thrashing plants in a shed, driving tractors, watering plants in glasshouses, to making up soil. After a few years, Darryl wanted to progress his position and decided to return to study to finish his HSC. He then went on to complete different courses through the Department of Agriculture, which opened further career opportunities.

“I started in research and cropping and ended up in extension and soil. So, with the degrees and the other qualifications, it opens up opportunities,” Darryl said.

“I think that’s what I like about agriculture - the opportunities are really broad. I started as a farmhand, but the opportunity to move up, to the point where I was running the field operations of programs like the genetic modified canola and the national fava-bean program which, in doing so, allowed me to go into Western Australia and Tasmania and Queensland and New South Wales.”

Melissa and Darryl love what their careers in agriculture have been able to offer - a wide variety of jobs, different education opportunities, flexibility, travel, and the chance to work with a diverse range of people.

Melissa and Darryl’s tips for people who want a career in agriculture:

- If you're not sure what you might do after year 12, be open to opportunities for work or work experience and give anything a go.
- Get in, get started, asked questions, and take on opportunities when they're offered to you. It might sound like it's extra work, but getting that extra bit of work may give you an opportunity and new skill.
- Don't be afraid to ask someone who is working in an industry about their experience or background. Most people appreciate talking about their work, so they'll quite happily give you an answer.

Listen to Melissa and Darryl talk about their journey in the agricultural industry here:

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