Written by Dhanya Shri Vimalan
The agriculture industry is an ever-evolving global sector that plays an important part in every individual’s life, from putting clothes on people’s backs to putting food on their plate. This week, we spoke to Michaela Hendry, a Curtin University graduate and Vice-President of the youth advocacy group AgConnectWA. She shares with us her experiences in the rural regions, her time at Curtin University, and her dreams for the future.
Michaela grew up on a mixed cropping and livestock farm near the town of Pingaring in the Wheatbelt. She says her childhood was filled with adventure, just like any farm kid.
“Tearing around on motorbikes or on the back of horses, eating cake at grandma’s house, in the header with Dad, those are the memories I hold close to my heart.”
Michaela and her family later made the coastal move to Denmark, where she spent the first few years of high school attending a private school in Albany. The school wasn’t quite the right fit, so, made the decision to attend the WA College of Agriculture in Denmark. Her experiences at the college were critical in figuring out her values, what she stood for, and her love for agriculture.
After finishing school, Michaela took six months off before moving to the big smoke to study a Bachelor of Agribusiness at Curtin University.
“I’m a country kid through and through, so moving to the city and starting university was an enormous culture shock, to begin with. I did start off incredibly homesick and overwhelmed, but once I got into my groove and met my people, I loved it.”
“I made some lifelong friends at Curtin and had exposure to many different parts of the vast agricultural industry.”
Michaela says that moving to the big city was not an easy decision, but an important one.
“Living in Perth and attending university was a huge learning curve, but it has opened the door to so many incredible opportunities. If I hadn’t taken that leap, I wouldn’t have met the people I have or ended up where I am today!”
Michaela’s love for agriculture grew during her time at Curtin. She found out that agriculture is more than just farming, as she learnt about the complex food production system, which is impacted by shifting global markets, climate and increasing consumer awareness.
“Agriculture takes a huge amount of labour at various stages along the supply chain to get produce from paddock to plate. Seeing that process from start to finish and being part of that team that provides safe, nutritious food worldwide is incredibly rewarding. From working on the farm, to engineering, marketing, sales, research, and development, there is a role for everyone.”
Since graduating, Michaela has worked in many areas across the agriculture sector, including roles within the Department of Premier and Cabinet for the Minister for Agriculture and Food, the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, and a position on the WAFarmers Grains Council.
She says that her current role as Vice-President for AgConnectWA has been an exciting challenge, and the opportunity has allowed her to see first-hand, the future of agriculture.
“I was previously on the committee as a General Committee member, so it is exciting to have been given the opportunity by my peers to step up into more of a leadership capacity. I get so excited when I see the youth of agriculture coming through the ranks; they are forces to be reckoned with making real, positive change for the agricultural industry.”
“The future is bright for our industry, and to be part of a group whose sole purpose is to bring those like-minded people together to network and develop is so rewarding.”
Michaela continues to advocate for the WA agriculture industry and is committed to helping shape the sector’s future. Michaela shares with us some advice for the next generation of rural, regional, and remote women in agriculture.
“Find your crew. Over the years, I have slowly built up my network, who are now my biggest cheerleaders and support crew. Without them, I would be lost. Your vibe attracts your tribe. Surround yourself with people you aspire to be like, and the rest will follow.”
“Know that there will always be haters in whatever you do, so if you are met with resistance, stand tall. Know what you stand for. Know that you are valued, and your voice is important.”