If you are every after professional advice and assistance when it comes to recruiting staff then Michelle Wallis is the lady for the job. Currently the recruitment manager for AgriplanSouth her services range from providing high quality, experienced relief staff to help fill short term labour gaps through to permanent placement of desirable candidates across all skill levels.
The business is very family orientated with her sister in law Sarah Wallis also being involved as a co-owner and the farm service manager whom helps keep the business moving.
Michelle grew up on sheep and beef farms across Central Southland and always wanted to be a farmer from when a young age. She vividly remembers telling her father that she was going to go to Lincoln University when I she was 12 years old.
A competitive sports person particularly for basketball & a avid horse rider growing up saw her competing on the show jumping circuit until she was about 17. it was around then when she met her now husband Richard and horses went out the window.
Life for Michelle shifted away from farming while she tried to find her niche in life. She initially thought that art was her future and he shifted to Timaru straight out of school with Richard to undertake a Diploma in Art. However she quickly realised that this was not the case and while farming was not on her radar for a while the location changed to Canterbury where she eventually found her way back to it through a standard bred horse stud,near Lincoln University. This made her realize how much she liked working with animals and together with Richard the decision to move back to Southland was made.
At that stage Richard was now working towards becoming a qualified builder and was travelling through to Queenstown daily for work, from their home in Lumsden. The 23 year old at the time decided to put an advert in the local community newsletter looking for work where she could ride my horse and work outside. That advert led her to getting a call from Jeff and Julia Grant at Balfour that changed the course of her farming career. Initially the role started as a farm hand position on the 300ha sheep and deer property but over the years developed into a stock management position. Ten years later and with two extra family additions, Michelle says it was the best opportunity that she had ever taken up.
While she was on the Grants farm she began to realize that agriculture was indeed her true passion and wanted to learn as much as she could. She says it was like someone had switched a light on and the possibilities were endless. So she enrolled in a Level 4 sheep and beef certificate with Primary ITO and the magic started to happen. With the suggestion from her then training adviser (successful Southland farmer Rebecca Dawkins) she applied to take part in an additional course run via Primary ITO for students that met certain criteria.
Without much information about what i had even applied for she was lucky enough to be selected to this special 5 day intensive farming course "Farming to Succeed" where she was introduced to 25 other young farmers from around the South Island with big ideas and bright futures.
Even with 1 child already under her care and another on the way Michelle wasn't slowed down and enrolled in a Diploma in Agribusiness via Primary ITO. With Support from her husband and Jeff and Julia, motivation to succeed drove her to complete it within the 2.5 year time frame, whilst parenting now 2 children and working almost full time and in 2013 she not only completed the Diploma but also won the Southland Primary ITO Agribusiness Trainee of the year.
It was around then that after numerous years of her dairy farming friends trying to convert her from sheep farming that she finally decided to try her hand at it and convinced Richard who was now a qualified builder to walk away from it and go back dairy so they could go contract milking.
They found themselves in a managing position on a 400 cow new conversion in Central Southland. Michelle says it was a huge change of pace for her as she went from working full time to being more of a support person to her husband and working casually on the farm when needed as well as rearing the calves. While they were there they discovered how difficult it was to find good staff who actually wanted to be farmers.
So Agriplansouth was born and Michelle together started her own business.
She says, "I realized very quickly that success in farming often happens when people are matched by their personalities rather than just filling a role with a title and I set about developing a questionnaire that would help me help both employers and employees find each other, with one stipulation..they had to be genuine good people and be willing to prove it (with references).
She found out pretty quickly that there was a market for her business and after a year she asked her best friend Sarah (and sister in law) for help while she was recovering from an injury. It wasn't long after Sarah and her partner came to her with an idea to join forces and expand the business by including relief milkers and short term labour solutions.
Fast forward a year and Agriplansouth is going from strength to strength, adding in HR support to its core business. Michelle's husband decided to follow his own passions out of dairy farming which would enabled more family time. They have now moved to the beautiful Alexandra to enable Richard to launch his own landscaping business (Rocky Ridge landscape and construction). She adds that she is his extra labour unit working around my Agriplansouth commitments as the recruitment manager.
"I am getting to work alongside him most days (which I love) and see both of our children and businesses grow together."
There is a lot of exciting things on the horizon for Michelle and it all ties back to Agriculture. She is currently developing a plan to help bright young people into agriculture with a clear pathway and support to achieve results. Another plan in the works revolves around supporting farmers in emergency situations to make sure that their business can carry on and they don't need to worry about it. They have also recently just returned from their first proper holiday ever overseas and plans for the next one are already in the works!
She admits she probably should of listened to her 12 year old self but she is so grateful to have found out that Agriculture was her true passion.
Michelle is always on the hunt to meet like minded people looking for help in the industry so if you ever want help to look for an amazing role or help to find some relief work get in touch with her we are sure she will be more than happy to lend a hand.
We think you have found the perfect match in both business and life Michelle, congratulations for following your passions and all the best.