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Ciara Cullen's success story

Ciara Cullen grew up on a potato farm in West Gippsland, Victoria. She loved working on the farm and being outdoors.

After finishing school Ciara decided to take a gap year to work at her family’s farm machinery business, which cemented her desire to pursue a career in the industry.

Ciara wanted to further develop her skills and decided to study a Bachelor of Agriculture at the University of Melbourne.

“My knowledge on the broad range of career opportunities was significantly enhanced during my time at university,” Ciara said.

“I’d say a fair portion of students would enter the course thinking about agronomy, banking, animal nutrition and research. Exiting the course, you realise there’s so much more than that – there’s communications, farm management, project management, economics, social media, supply chain and trade, precision agriculture/technology management, to just name a few.”

During her final year of university, Ciara did an industry research project supported by Birchip Cropping Group (BCG), on Wimmera and Mallee farmers’ attitudes to the adoption of genetically modified canola. At the conclusion of the project and university, Ciara was offered a three-month temporary role as a BCG extension and communications officer. She then successfully applied for a full time role in the organisation, and after 18 months, Ciara was seconded to a more senior role when her manager went on maternity leave.

BCG performs more than 140 on-farm research trials across 40 sites annually, all with the aim of developing an improved understanding of production in order to improve farm profitability.

“My role is to coordinate the extension and communications team, which means ensuring the research is communicated with the farming community and industry so they can improve their practices,” Ciara said.

“We hold five major events including field days, expos and conferences, review days plus a plethora of small scale events including crop walks, workshops, farmer skills development and young farmer discussion groups. Complementary to this is a communications focus – eNews, social media, website, YouTube, Podcasts, written results manuals etc.”

Ciara likes that her role offers variety and there is never a dull day. She loves how passionate farmers are about the industry and especially likes seeing small farming communities thrive and prosper. Ciara looks forward to growing, learning and progressing in an industry that she believes is highly rewarding.

“I appreciate the high risk business farmers work in to produce and maintain Australia’s high quality commodities and reputation. It is an industry I am very proud to work in,” Ciara said.

Ciara’s tips for others thinking about a career in agriculture:

– I highly recommend further education as it opens more doors, especially as agriculture is very science driven. Graduates nowadays will be required to have an understanding of precision agriculture and data collection to improve decision making and accountability as consumers and importers require more information on where their food is sourced and grown.

– Agriculture is an extremely positive and progressive industry. Find opportunities to get work experience and work hard, show initiative and take interest in what you and others are doing. Always ask why you’re doing a task and how it benefits the organisation or farmer.

– Being able to multitask, create and maintain networks and communicate effectively will get you a long way, as does empathy.

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