The phone call that changed everything

It was a hot and humid day in Darwin, and the end of Trimester 2 was quickly approaching. Bachelor of Agriculture student Ellie Ireson was hard at work preparing for exams when her cramming session was interrupted by a phone call from her mum.

“It was coming up to exam period, and my mum had seen an ad for the Northern Territory Farmers Association Kenneth Rayner Agriculture Scholarship, so she rang me up saying that I should apply,” says Ellie.

Key points
  •     Ellie Ireson is the inaugural winner of the NT Farmers Kenneth Rayner Agriculture Scholarship
  •     Entegra sponsors the scholarship
  •     Work experience with Entegra is part of the scholarship
  •     Ellie is studying a Bachelor of Agriculture, majoring in Animal Production at UNE

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“I initially thought I was too busy with uni to write the application, but I eventually decided to fit it in between study sessions.”

Looking back now, it was a decision that Ellie says completely changed her life. After a successful interview, she has now been announced as the inaugural winner of the Northern Territory Farmers Association Kenneth Rayner Agriculture Scholarship which will see her receive $11,000 to go towards her final year of study and open up valuable opportunities to connect with key people in the industry.



“I’m still in a bit of shock because I didn’t really expect it, and now everyone’s congratulating me, but I’m still in disbelief,” she says.

“It will help me buy textbooks, cover uni fees, travel down to NSW for intensives, and will give me the opportunity to do work experience with Entegra, the company sponsoring the scholarship.

“I’m looking forward to learning with them, and also meeting people in the field to see what they have to offer.”

Ellie grew up with her family on a property outside the village of Booligal near Hay in southern NSW. With a population under 100 people, she says she feels lucky that she was able to have country upbringing on her family’s farm.

“I loved growing up on the farm and helping mum and dad with cattle work,” she says.

“In school holidays we’d come back from boarding school and my brother, sister and I would help out with calf marking and other jobs around the farm.

“Dad would go around showing us the cattle that were about to calf, or he’d teach us all of the different parts of the industry from his perspective, so that was awesome to grow up with and I think that’s really helped drive my passion in agriculture.”

With a love of the land ingrained in her from a young age, when Ellie finished Year 12, she decided to swap the typical Euro gap year for twelve months working on a sheep stud. She then moved up north to take a second gap year working on a large cattle station in the Northern Territory.

“That was a great experience that involved station hand work, so I was doing a lot of cattle work in the yards and mustering, but also maintenance work and fencing,” she says.

“The land is so different up north compared to NSW, so I got to learn about all of the different pastures and the different breeds of cattle in the Northern Territory.”


Berrimah Export Yards

When the year was up, Ellie decided to build her skills and enrol in a Bachelor of Agriculture, majoring in Animal Production at UNE. However, just three weeks in things took an unexpected turn.

The online aspect of the degree means that really, I can study from anywhere I want.

“I started on campus, and then COVID happened so I ended up doing my studies online while living on a farm near Gunnedah in NSW,” she says.

“This was really great because I got the first-hand experience of seeing dry-land cropping production, plus I was able to work for GrainCorp later on in the year, once I had finished my first-year studies.”

While she enjoyed this experience, the pull of the Northern Territory was too strong.

“The online aspect of the degree means that really, I can study from anywhere I want,” she says.

“I really enjoyed station life and being up north, so I thought I may as well move back up here and put some of my studies towards learning about the stations and the different approaches to farming.”

She’s encouraging more young people to follow suit as she believes learning off others and saying ‘yes’ to as many opportunities as possible is the key to success in this industry.

“It would be great to see even more young people get involved in Agriculture, particularly up here in the Northern Territory,” she says.

“There are so many really great people in the Ag community who have so much knowledge to give, so if you’re passionate about this and you want to do something in the industry, definitely get out there and have a go.”


NTLEA director Tim O’Donnell (from Wellard Rural Exports), Kenneth Rayner Agriculture Scholarship recipient Ellie Ireson and NTLEA CEO Tom Dawkins

The article was written by the social media team from University New England


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