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Mark Palmer's success story

Mark Palmer grew up in Melbourne. His extended family had a dairy farm in Echuca, that he would visit during the school holidays. For year 12, Mark moved to Echuca so he could study agriculture at school as a VET subject and complete a Certificate II in Dairy.

“I decided I liked it enough to go on and do an Advanced Diploma of Agriculture,” Mark said. “It was a two year course, and when I finished I went dairy farming for six years.”

Mark worked full time as a herd manager and replacement stud manager on dairies ranging from 150 to 1200 cows, from Gippsland through to Dubbo.

“I then got caught up in the later part of the drought, I lost employment due to water availability and I lost my job when the milk price crashed during the global financial crisis at the end of 2008 – that’s when I got into agronomy,” he said.

Mark worked for three years at a CRT Cobram while completing a Diploma of Agronomy.

“I love being outside. I love the physical, practical work and working with the stock,” he said. “I really have an affiliation with pasture and growing pasture. I understand feed lotting and intensive feeding but there’s just something about pasture and the interaction with livestock that I prefer.”

Mark has now worked at Stephen Pasture Seeds for five years as sales territory manager, a job that sees him travel throughout Northern Victoria and Southern Riverina as a forage agronomist.

But Mark is still involved on farm – he milks for a friend on weekends and he and his wife purchased a small farm where they run Friesian bullocks; “It has huge benefits in what I do Monday to Friday with agronomy, farmers appreciate that I have practical experience and understand the practicalities of what I’m recommending,” he said.

Mark is also a member of his local young dairy network, and is currently Chair of the group’s steering committee.

“When I was fulltime dairy farming it was tough and there was drought. But it’s paved the way for the professionalism in the industry. I wanted to use my experience to do what I could to ensure that the stepping stones for young people in the industry were a bit easier, a little bit more obvious, and self-explained,” Mark said. “Local discussion groups give young people support, there’s other people sharing ideas of how to get in, or how to progress your career.”

Now 33 years old, Mark enjoys his role as an agronomist and he is looking forward to where a career in agriculture takes him in the future.

“I left dairy farming through the doors that were open to me at the time, but there’s nothing to say that I won’t go back to manage a farm some day. Nothing has been wasted experience.”

Mark’s Tips:

– Getting into agriculture is as simple as applying for a job and going for it, but treat it as a profession. I gained employment when I was dairy farming by having a professional mindset.

– Managing a farm for someone could be the future for young people who don’t come from a dairy or agricultural background. Approach dairy farming as a professional manager from the outset, get yourself an agri-business background along with the practical skillset required, and work up.

– If you want to be a farm manager, you have to think about being an agri-business professional. You’re going to need good communication and HR skills. Some places have 10 or 15 fulltime and part time employees – there’s a lot of personalities to manage.

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