Agriculture is no longer seen as a twilight industry with limited prospects for a rewarding career; but one in which many young people embrace the exciting combination of technology and academic learning with a lifetime of practical knowledge gained from the older generation to pursue their own direction.
Growing up on her parent’s sheep property in the heart of the Monaro, Florance McGufficke was exposed to the pleasure and the heartache experienced when families work the land through various seasons and fluctuating commodity prices.
“My interest in agriculture as a fulfilling career was formed from working alongside my parents Alan and Michelle and my sisters Miranda and Ivy in the sheep yards, shearing shed and paddocks,” she said.
“I have loved growing up here being involved with everything that was going on around the property and with the sheep.”
For her gap year after leaving school, Ms McGufficke went to England where she worked in a school at St Albans on the northern edge of London teaching swimming and netball.
“I traveled around Europe for the first time and it has definitely been one of the greatest experiences of my life and definitely worth it,” she said.
Ms McGufficke is currently studying a Bachelor of agriculture and business at the University of New England (UNE) which she resides in St Alberts College, more commonly referred to as ‘Albies’.
“Studying at UNE has opened my eyes to all the career possibilities I can pursue in agriculture, and Albies has created a great network of life-long friends since I’ve been here,” she said.
“I chose to study a double degree because I believe both elements are important links across different sectors of the industry. I really enjoy learning and feel knowledge in both will help me in my future, by creating more opportunities once I graduate”.
Besides her interest in business, Ms McGufficke would like to focus on genetics using the knowledge to lift animal production on the family farm.
“The agricultural industry is embracing technology and I want to help my family and others keep up,” she said. “The collection and recording of data is a powerful tool to enhance any business. We have been benchmarking genetics in our family business for over 30 years.”
“I love all the ‘hands-on’ contact in agriculture through animal production and plant production systems and I hope to take that further when I graduate.
Ms McGufficke has completed the first year of a four-year course, and plans to eventually return to the family farm as her immediate aim, but first wants to explore other agricultural fields.
“I would like to help Dad build up what we are doing here now,” she said.
“Especially with future genetic application to our sheep flock, but also in the way people are looking at the available information and that can be improved through technology.”
She understands what her father is currently doing using Index Figures to breed Merino sheep with the potential for greater production and profitability, and would like to use her future academic knowledge to disseminate further the possibilities engaged through the measurement of productive livestock traits.
Her academic knowledge will compliment what her father and other sheep breeders have been doing for generations.
People are embracing wool and recognising its unique natural properties and how it is a wonderful product, sustainably produced and environmentally friendly
“I would like to help other people understand the importance of ASBV’s in lifting production by breeding sheep with better performance capability,” Ms McGufficke said.
“It will be beneficial for the whole industry.”
The pride she has in her family and the Merino sheep bred on the property near Cooma is evident as she spoke about her commitment to the wool industry and expressing great confidence in its future.
“I want to be involved with the industry,” she said.
“It is very exciting at the moment … there is definitely a positive direction which is good for the future and it is the perfect time to invest in highly profitable and proven genetics.”
“People are embracing wool and recognising its unique natural properties and how it is a wonderful product, sustainably produced and environmentally friendly.”
It is a sustainable resource, and Ms McGufficke is excited that fine Merino wool as a fashion product is suitable for clothes to be worn close to the skin, and for the modern demand for sportswear that looks fantastic.