Few people have a job role created specifically for them, but this was the case for 25 year-old Emma Ayliffe who works as an agronomist in southern New South Wales, Australia. Her journey to this point has been a colourful and sweeping exploration of agriculture. She grew up tailing wild merinos on station country between Port Augusta and Coober Pedy, has hand-cut rice straw in India, worked in expansive fields of wheat and canola, and farmed the lake beds of Menindee in outback NSW.
It was farming those Menindee lake beds that first introduced Emma to the world of cotton, a world she has since adopted with a passion and determination found only in a few. At Menindee she started knowing nothing about cotton and began at the bottom. She scheduled irrigation times, checked insect burdens, conducted on-farm trials and became involved with
the cotton community as secretary of the Menindee and Lower Darling Cotton Growers Association.
Over at Griffith Elders agronomist Heath McWhirter was watching Emma’s rise within the industry. Impressed with her design and execution of research projects he began to imagine a role to harness those talents, and when the opportunity arose offered her a job designed specifically around her, combining research, development and extension with agronomy. In her new role Emma is able to take trial results directly to her producers, and because she has on-farm experience those producers are confident in her knowledge and ability.
Emma is keen to take on leadership roles within the cotton industry and also has a passion for encouraging the next generation to consider a career in agriculture. She is the sponsorship coordinator for the Southern Valleys Cotton Growers Association, is studying for a Masters Degree in agricultural science, is an Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champion and for the last 18 months has been involved with the Future Cotton Leaders Program. She also co-hosts a Facebook page called Agro -Tales from the Field and can be found in schools as part of the Archibull Prize where she shares her love of all things cotton and agronomy.
“I do what I do because I love helping people and I find plants truly amazing. Understanding how a crop is able to grow and then how what we do in terms of management influences it is a great process. To be constantly learning, evolving our management techniques and evaluating what we do as advisers means we are able to see the growers we work with achieve year on year. To be able to get up and spend my days outside in the sunshine dealing with some of the most resilient and inspirational people means I will never have to work a day in my life!”
You have summed it up so well Emma, to be out and about surrounded by others working so hard to improve such an important industry always inspires us here at AgWomen Global. You have done so well in such a key park of the primary industries. Keep up the hard work and we know you will continue to soar.