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Mikaela Baker's success story

Mikaela Baker grew up in Mansfield, Victoria, and even though her parents had some farming experience, Mikaela did not grow up on a farm.

“My mother grew up on a rice, wheat and sheep farm and then moved to become a nurse. My father’s family ran a sheep farm in his teenage years before moving back to Melbourne,” Mikaela said.

“I was always interested in farming, I spent my holidays camping on the Niemur River that ran alongside my relatives’ farm, and growing up in Mansfield you’re surrounded by such stunning countryside, it’s hard not to imagine a life involved in the industry.”

Mikaela went to Mansfield Secondary College and in year 9 she elected to study agribusiness. In the first semester she spent one day a week travelling to different farm systems and had guest speakers visit the school. During the second semester she was placed on a farm for one day a week.

“I was placed at a sheep enterprise, where they ran approximately 3,500 crossbreds and Merinos, with some Angus and Hereford cows. The family that I worked for were incredibly beautiful people and fully welcomed me onto their farm with opens arms. The greatest part that I took away from the experience was learning about stock handling from seeing how kindly they treated their animals.”

One day a vet visited the farm; they started chatting and Mikaela saw him working, “I thought that I could one day get a job as an animal consultant so that I could help farmers,” she said.

Mikaela decided to study a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at Charles Sturt University (CSU). In 2013 she was awarded the Horizon Scholarship, which supports future agricultural leaders. Through the scholarship Mikaela received a bursary for each year of her degree. She attended the annual Horizon Summit workshop and completed work placements.

“It was exciting to meet such an outstandingly motivated group of young people with such a diverse range of interests in agriculture,” she said. “I was at Baiada, in Sydney, with the head nutritionist for my first work placement. It was my most valuable experience, I absolutely loved the detail and care that went into producing chicken meat, and it was so exciting the direct impact you can have by creating a balanced diet. Greg Hargeave, who I worked under, taught me lessons and gave me advice that I still use today, and is valuable in my current line of work.”

“I spent my second placement on a dairy farm of 110 Illawarras in the Goulburn Valley. I worked with Raymond who was so incredibly patient, as I had never in my life stepped foot on a dairy farm. He showed me how his farming system worked and taught me about dairy farming, which I now live and breathe.”

While at the 2014 Horizon Summit, Mikaela met Cathy McGowen MP, who invited her to join PoliTicks – developed by a group of young people who have an interest in supporting the community. She was also invited to Victorian Parliament Youth Forum to talk about her experiences.

In 2015 Mikaela took the opportunity to travel to China for a Young Professionals Tour with the University of Melbourne. In the same year she also visited South Africa for an agriculture tour with CSU. In 2016 Mikaela graduated from CSU and completed a three-month placement at Beston Global Foods.

“My role was to collate information and write a report regarding organic dairying. I also had the opportunity to work with managers in other areas of the business in which I had no experience, but I learnt that I have the capabilities to adapt and work hard. The greatest value was an understanding of the driving forces of corporate business and their decision making structure, which is quite different to how decisions are made on a family run farm.”

In March 2017 Mikaela was offered a job at Total Result Ag Consulting as a trainee productivity consultant focusing on dairy production.

“I absolutely love my job,” she said, “day to day I get to spend time on farm with my boss doing consults, where we look at heard health, production, nutrition and business management. The days I’m not on farm I spend in the office doing research and writing reports to help our innovative clients, or troubleshoot any problems that come up.”

Mikaela is looking forward to building her career and creating long term relationships with clients. Struck by the travel bug, she is also keen to travel overseas to learn about different farming systems and innovations.
“It’s really exciting to see that in dairy it doesn’t matter if you are 18 or 80, male or female, or what country you are born in, everyone is treated equally and brings their skills to the table.”

Mikaela’s Tips:

– I have never been turned down for work experience, there are so many people who love what they do for work and are excited to share it with people. Work experience is a lot of fun, but don’t be disheartened if you don’t enjoy your placement – it’s still a great outcome to know you’re not suited to that certain job, you can then try something else that you’ll find more enjoyable.

– There are so many jobs in agriculture, there is an opportunity for anyone to find something they love in the industry – you can wear a suit in the city, work in IT, on a farm, and anything in between.

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