SMART MOVE: Agronomist Sally Jolly is busy preparing Smart
SMART MOVE: Agronomist Sally Jolly is busy preparing Smart Felicity Ripper

Farmer's not blue about career path

AGRICULTURE has always been a career path for agronomist Sally Jolly, but her work with blueberries in the past year is left-of-field to what she's use to.

In the wake of International Women's Day, assistant farm manager and agronomist at Smart Berries, Ms Jolly has offered some quality advice for anyone looking to enter the farming industry, and applicable elsewhere:

Her advice: "Do not sell yourself short. It will be hard, it never gets easier, you just get better”.

The Mundubbera-based farmer said she loves the challenges presented in the farming industry.

"I get the most enjoyment from the constant challenges and dynamic nature of running a farm,” she said.

"Blueberries are not that well researched in Australia, so it is difficult to find information that suits our varieties and location.

"I enjoy running trials and finding out more about how the plant behaves, how I can manipulate it through water, fertiliser and general plant management.”

Upon re-entering the industry, after raising her family, she said she was scared of heading back into the workforce in any capacity.

"Those self-doubts lingering in the background can put anyone off,” she said.

"But at the same time, I am fairly gutsy and just started putting my resume out there and applying for interesting jobs.

"All of a sudden I was getting call backs and interviews at some really great businesses across the Wide Bay and was able really find the job that both suited me and my employer. They ranged from chillies and avocados to pulses and blueberries.

"Any one of them was going to be the polar opposite to what I had been doing.”

In the face of any adversity, she said the ability to be adaptable was key.

"I am naturally a planner and doer, but I had to learn to become more fluid and adapt extremely quickly to the ever changing environment that comes with a high intensity horticulture farm that employs up to 500 people during the peak season,” she said.

"Delegation and training... teaching not just the "what” and "how”, but the "why”. Why have I asked you to do something and can we improve on that.

"Asking for input in the hope of embedding an ounce of accountability into ones work ethic is something that I find extremely important, not only for our employees, but for me also.”

Ms Jolly said taking ownership of mistakes was also a big one: "I believe, is an important quality in leadership. Learn from it and do better next time”.

When asked about any misconception she found in her industry, Ms Jolly said farming, in any sense of the word, is a vast array of complex practical, yet scientific industries - "that we don't give ourselves enough credit for”.

She said "What A farmer Looks Like” and "Cattlemen In Pearls” were great initiatives to highlight the pre-conceptions and indeed misconceptions of what a farmer should be and how they should act.

While there are multiple people Ms Jolly considered a role model for various reasons, there was one that particularly stood out - her cousin.

"My cousin, Annabelle Coppin, is one,” she said.

"She is the owner of a cattle station called Yarrie Station in the Pilbara, a Nuffield scholar, specialising in animal welfare and providing quality local beef back into her local markets through her new venture called Outback Beef.

"The leadership, innovation and stamina shown by her is phenomenal, given the isolation she is in.

"Just recently, she held a fund raiser in Port Hedland for cattle producers in Queensland affected by the recent flood, through Sisters of the North and raised $1655 in sausage sales.”

In order to find your way in the industry, Ms Jolly advised having a clear vision without making it a one-way street.

She said having the openness to change and recognising other ways to achieve something, taking accountability for actions and maintaining integrity were positive traits to possess.

On the farm she said at a guess there was a three-to-one ratio of women to men.

"Industry as whole? (I) Can't say too much as I rarely leave my little blueberry bubble and therefore know very little people in the horticulture industry,” she said.

"I've only been in this industry for a little over a year, but have learned and achieved a lot, including receiving the Outstanding Leadership Award from Fresh Produce Group, Fruitico and Smart Berries in 2018”.

Five weird road rules we're breaking

premium_icon Five weird road rules we're breaking

The unexpected ways you could cop a fine

Grog thief mum gets jailed for 14 months

premium_icon Grog thief mum gets jailed for 14 months

Woman stole from Dan Murphy's two days in a row

KUMULS CALL-UP: Laybutt to make his debut

premium_icon KUMULS CALL-UP: Laybutt to make his debut

Laybutt hopes Papua New Guinea selection can lead to bigger things