Fiona Sharland is an Agricultural Research Technician on Massey University’s five farms based around the Manawatu and Wairarapa. The Massey University farms, which include two dairy farms and three dry stock and dairy support units, are there to provide a platform for research and teaching for the University, and other external clients while still being managed in a commercial manner.
Fiona and her three older brothers, who are all farmers, grew up helping out on their family’s 300 cow dairy farm east of Pahiatua, also running a few sheep, bulls and beef animals. Fiona went to boarding school at Feilding High School, and studied Horticulture right through before going on to study Agriculture at Massey University. Not moving far, Fiona was lucky enough to get a job at Massey University on the outskirts of Palmerston North straight out of University.
Fiona's role is very varied and broad. Because of this she often finds it hard to explain to people what she does, her usual story is that she is somewhat like a farmer, but also found in her office half of the time.
"I see that I am better placed fixing the farm managers computer or doing data entry, so the farm manager can go fix a fence or water leak. It is a varied job working with a lot of different people. I enjoy my office based role equally as much as helping management at an operational level."
On farm Fiona has a variety of responsibilities. At a research and communication level she helps deal with conflicting needs and issues between research and farming, answers requests for information and is part of the research team when required. Fiona is in charge of data collection; weighing stock, downloading weights and yields, and organising LIC herd testing and milk sampling. She also assists with on-farm teaching, mainly Vet and Vet Tech students, who often shadow her daily routines. As well as mentoring a number of student casual workers that have helped her out over the past 6 years.
"I love that it is normal business hours (usually) but I still get to hang out with my favourite animal, cows, the friendlier the better! Every day is different and working with different people. Most days I turn up and Im never sure how the day will pan out. All going well, although not always, I am outside on a nice day, and inside on a wet windy day."
Your job sounds like it has a great mix of practical and technical elements Fiona. It's very cool that you have found an ag job that suits not only your skill set, but your loves and your lifestyle.