When dairy farmer Trish Hammond enrolled in the University of Tasmania’s online Graduate Diploma in Agribusiness, she had one foot in the present and one in the future.
Returning to study for the first time after completing a double degree in nursing and rural health practice straight out of year 12, Trish saw the Graduate Diploma in Agribusiness as an opportunity to fill knowledge gaps she had identified in the day-to-day running of the family farm business.
She also planned to prepare herself for a time when she and her husband, Mark, no longer had the farm, where they milk about 1100 cows at Labertouche, in Victoria’s West Gippsland region.
“When I finished year 12, I went straight into a Bachelor of Nursing and Bachelor of Rural Health Practice double degree, then I was a nurse for nine years before I started dairy farming,” Trish said.
“Mark’s parents were share farmers, so he grew up on a dairy farm. He left school to do his diesel mechanic apprenticeship and when he completed that, went into business dairy farming on his parents’ share farm.”
The couple were offered the opportunity to take on their own share farm in Gippsland. So they developed their own farming business and started living the farm life together, with Trish learning a lot from Mark.
“A lot of the work that I do is the administrative side of the business. Mark takes care of all the hands-on things, I'm the one that manages our staff, rostering, payroll, bills and all the business governance side.
“But over time I thought I needed to understand further about agribusiness, which includes what Mark usually takes care of. So, when I saw this course advertised, I thought it would be perfect. I booked into an information session.”
Trish decided the Graduate Diploma in Agribusiness – with a Dairy Management specialisation – would complement her practical experience and provide her with the credentials and knowledge to be able to do something in the industry outside of the hands-on side of farming in the future.
When Trish began her studies in 2021, she planned to “knock it over in one year,” but life had other plans. She quickly realised that full-time study was going to be impossible while also running the dairy, managing the household, and caring for their three children.
Fortunately, as an entirely online course, the Diploma offered the flexibility she needed in order to fit her studies in around her life.
“I did one subject to start, then deferred the rest of the year to deal with our farming business changes, and then I got back into it this year,” she said..
“UTAS has been great in allowing and supporting this flexibility, so I'm hoping to finish four more subjects this year and I'll do the additional three next year.”
Trish has just completed a module on supply chain management that has given her an entirely new appreciation for the day-to-day tasks of managing the farm.
“It just blew my mind how things rely so heavily on each other,” she said.
“And then to go on and have conversations with the milk supply officers about what I have learnt and the stressors in the supply chain … it's giving me an appreciation for companies and the competitive markets they work in.”
As part of that same module, students were assessed on methods for adding value to a product, encouraging Trish to think outside of the box.
“It made us start thinking about A2 milk supply. I spent time researching what is involved to do this, not just for the supply chain assessment, but to then make it a reality for our business if that is what we decide.
“This course is not only studying our own business and how we can improve and change it, but it’s also giving me an understanding and appreciation of where our business fits in the entire global dairy picture.”
The University of Tasmania’s Graduate Diploma in Agribusiness is delivered through the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture, online, with face-to-face learning and networking opportunities throughout, meaning that no matter where you live it is flexible and accessible.