Horses, changing courses and lambs in libraries 

Bachelor of AgriScience student Becky Reith.

Once her exams are completed, Bachelor of AgriScience student Becky Reith will take up a graduate role in one of the country’s top plant breeding and research companies, pursuing a field that she had never even heard of growing up.

Leaving Christchurch’s Rangi Ruru Girls' School, Miss Reith had many options to choose from, including offers to pursue a fine arts degree, but she had her sights set on being a veterinarian.

“I didn’t get selected to continue vet, which at the time was really disappointing, but I ended up taking a few ag papers and really enjoying them so another option presented itself. To be honest, I didn’t really know what an AgriScience degree involved, as my high school didn’t even have agriculture as a subject.

“I guess I could’ve gone back home to do a degree at Lincoln. The running joke is that I moved to Palmerston North so that I would have 24-hour warning that mum was on her way to see me, so I could make sure the flat was tidy and all that, but really I just spoke to people I trusted about it and decided on Massey.”

However, leaving behind three horses in Christchurch wasn’t the easiest decision, but her parents came to the rescue.

“Mum said that if I was to head up to Massey that I couldn’t take the horses with me, even though the facilities were there, as I probably wouldn’t socialise if I had them, and she was probably right. I was part of the South Island Dressage young rider training squad when I left, and it would’ve been great to see where I ended up with that, but at the end of the day I’ve taken a good path and now that a job is taking me back home, I get to have the horses back.”

Her first job out of university will be as a graduate for Agri Seeds, an 18-month appointment that will explore the many aspects of the pastoral seed industry including plant breeding, agronomic and market support, seed production, and sales.

She credits this success in part to the 26 weeks of full-time work that the AgriScience degree offers. Over her three years she was a farm assistant at Dairy NZ, plant breeding assistant at PGG Wrightson, agronomy assistant at Agricom, crop inspector at Asure Quality and junior laboratory assistant at PGG Wrightson.

“To get jobs you’ve got to put yourself out there and show you’ve got skills in lots of areas. Promote yourself and it’s really easy if you are willing to go to events, and even just talking to your lecturers who are connected with the industry – they are doing research projects for half of the companies, so they know what’s happening in the industry and can get you in the companies and roles that will broaden your practical knowledge and skills which really helps when you go for a job.”

“I’m really excited to take this job as this is one of the biggest opportunities I could have asked for, coming straight out of university. I get to experience every department of the company and practice what I’ve learnt over my AgSci degree, however at the end I would really love to be an agronomist.

“A big part of the reason I got the job is probably down to one of my lecturers, Cory Matthew, who wrote me a great reference letter and is a massive part of why I’m so interested in this area – he’s got a real passion for it.”

All work and no play?

She also made the most of the unique campus life culture while studying agriculture at Massey.

She was a member of the Massey Young Farmers Club, which she says was a great social outlet for things like dances and quizzes and helped to take her mind off full-time study. But one of her highlights involved a lamb in the University library.

The lamb in question is named Skippy, the graduating class of 2017’s de facto mascot, who was adopted by a fellow classmate during one of her practical papers and who has since gathered a cult-following on social media.

“It was always on the bucket list to get Skippy into the library before graduation but we never thought the library would agree, so it was really awesome of them. It shows there is a good culture in the degree – we work hard but we definitely have a bit of fun. It doesn’t matter if you are third or first year, you seem to interact with everyone.”

“I think when people think ‘agriculture degrees’ they think ‘farmers’, but there’s a bunch of Aucklanders in our degree that came in not knowing much about farming at all. They came in with an open mind and great attitude and are now finishing knowing just as much as students raised on a farm.

It hasn’t been easier than vet was, but there’s certainly a different way you interact with your fellow students, where vet was competitive and you compared marks, agriculture hasn’t been like that and everyone seems to know everyone and support each other.”

Learn more about the Bachelor of AgriScience.

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