Written by Dhanya Shri Vimalan

Stacey is the course coordinator for Curtin University’s Associate Degree in Agribusiness at the Muresk Institute in Northam. She is passionate about educating students on the agriculture sector and its importance in today’s globalised world. Stacey shares with us her experiences in the rural regions, her love for teaching and her goals for the future. 

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I grew up in Gingin, which is about an hour north of Perth. My dad was a shearer, and my mum was a teacher. We had a farm, and we were very involved with the rural activities, sporting clubs and community events. I went to boarding school throughout my teen years and got into Biomedical Science at Murdoch University.

Once completed, I moved back to the farm for about six months, which somehow turned into eight years. From there, I winded up getting a post-graduate degree in Education at Edith Cowan University, which allowed me to teach at a country school for a couple of years. I moved to Northam shortly after, which again was supposed to last nine months, and now I’ve been here for three years. I am currently studying a Masters in Environment and Agriculture at Curtin University. 

How has it been working at Curtin University teaching people about Agribusiness? 

I coordinate the Associate Degree in Agribusiness, and I teach a few of the introductory units to establish a point of contact with the students. It is a lot of fun, the students are great, and they are always invested in their degrees. They are always looking for ways to talk about what works for them, and they are very open, very giving with their time. They are a lot of fun, and the people I work with from Curtin are always very generous. I’ve got good people around me, I teach at Muresk as well, and the people out there are great too. I enjoy getting out and talking to students, and there are so many wonderful people in the industry, and they are always so welcoming, so any chance to have a chat with people is my favourite bit.

Would you say the demand for people in Agribusiness is high? 

It’s huge now, especially with COVID. The demand for labour, particularly local work, has gone through the roof. It’s always been there, probably less in the spotlight, and I think now that COVID has hit, and people are paying more attention to the supply chain and where their food comes from, they realise these gaps in what we need what we currently have. 

I think I read somewhere the other day that the Co-operative Bulk Handling Group (CBH) is looking for 1000 workers, and I have no idea where they will get them from. I think the plan is to recruit university students, but the problem is that it takes a certain amount of time to get people upskilled. With harvest, you need to hit the ground running and get well outside your comfort zone, and you might not have people you know around you and working 12-hour days, so there’s no gently easing into it, which is tricky.

How does it feel being part of #WomeninAg? 

I love it, it’s such a community, and everybody is so connected. For example, the other day, we had someone drive up from Donnybrook to talk to the students for half an hour if they had any questions about her running program. People are just so generous and so welcoming. It can be challenging, and there can also be a few background prejudices that can still echo through, but I think most people are open and willing, if not giving, then passing on to someone who can help you and give you what you need. 

Would you change any part of your experience at Curtin or in the Agribusiness sector? 

COVID-19 and lockdowns have not been fun. I think my students appreciate face-to-face teaching a lot more since they got forced into online learning last year. They did not enjoy it as much. They accepted it, but part of agriculture is networking and opportunities to talk to people and visit places, which is still tightened up. 

Study tours that we coordinate have become a lot more local and more flexible just in case everything goes south. Our next study tour is in September and watching the news, panicking that things are going to change. With that being said, it has also forced us to be versatile, and it has put agriculture back in the spotlight, so there are silver linings to it all.

What do you wish to achieve through your work in Agribusiness and agriculture?

Not that this is my work necessarily, but I would love all young people to know where their food comes from and appreciate how their food is made. I like the idea of informed choices from a consumer point of view. I think consumers need to be aware of what they are choosing, because sometimes people think they are choosing one thing. 

For example, they are choosing organic because they think it is healthier when there is good organic and bad organic. Just because you are an organic producer doesn’t mean you’re better at your job than somebody who regenerative or traditional. If I can be a part of that conversation, I think that would be an amazing place to be in. I don’t think one person’s going to change the world, but I think it’s a good start. 

What advice would you give to the next generation of rural, regional, and remote women who want to get into the agriculture industry? 

The simplest piece of advice would be talk to people. Everybody is more than happy to have somebody come out and give it a go. I know a lot of people are nervous about this idea of the unknown and “what am I going to do if I’m outside my city or away from my friends”. So many people have ventured into the regions, and they find a real home there, and even if they wind up back in Perth, they still have that love affair with the areas they have visited. Just get out there and give it a go. 

Stacey and her team will be down at the Dowerin Field Day event in the Wheatbelt NRM tent from 25 August 2021 to 26 August2021. For more information, visit https://www.westernaustralia.com/en/Event/Dowerin_Field_Days/56ea3e104127aaf353865508