Nutrient specialist Rachael Hoogenboom reflects on swapping sunny Bay of Plenty for southern climes.

When I began with Ballance Agri-nutrients as a sales intern in January, I knew that timing was a major factor towards when I would be offered my next role, however I would never have expected that this opportunity would come as soon as it did.

I had only been in Mount Maunganui a few months with Ballance. The purpose of the intern programme is to develop our skills and prepare us to be nutrient specialists.

In the middle of April, I signed my new contract and was on route to Invercargill where I would begin my next adventure as a nutrient specialist for Northern Southland East based out of Gore. I arrived in the drizzle at Tauranga airport with three overweight suitcases, packed full with all the belongings I could squeeze in which largely contributed to the overweight issue.

I cannot thank the Ballance team enough for their encouragement and support since I started.

Geography was one of my favourite subjects at school but growing up I don’t remember hearing much about Southland or where it was on the map of NZ. Nor did I know Southlanders had a different accent. However, the accent did not put me off as I have been dating a true Southland lad, Cameron, for a few years now.

From the many trips south to visit his family and explore more of NZ that I had little idea existed, I realised how at home I felt and how welcoming and friendly the people are.

I crossed my fingers that a job would become available in the region.

I have recently returned home from the company’s  sales conference in Wellington. The business sales team comes together to celebrate our successes from the previous season and how we can improve in the coming season. Over two days we heard from many inspiring speakers including a farmer panel and our board chairman, Duncan Coull. After listening to Duncan speak, a few of his words have stuck with me, “It is now more risk to not take risk” and “get comfortable being uncomfortable”.

“. . . the accent did not put me off as I have been dating a true Southland lad, Cameron, for a few years now.”

Being in a new role in a new area meant I was taking on a lot of risk and life has been rather uncomfortable at times lately. I will continue to adapt to the challenges that I am faced with in my job but I have also realised that being uncomfortable is how I will improve and develop.

As I write this, it is the beginning of August. I began the new season soil testing on any day that provided sunshine, following this there have been annual fertiliser planning meetings with my dairy customers before they were bustling in the busy time of calving.

Another focus has been ensuring sheep and beef farmers have sufficient pasture on hand at lambing, through strategic nitrogen use, so ewes are able to produce adequate milk for their lambs during the first three weeks of their life.

Spring is a busy time of year for all farmers and myself, with a large majority of the farmers whom I work with, sowing crops during this time from summer or winter forage to spring cereals and various other produce. It is also the time when paddocks are resown back into pasture following crops and my role is to help ensure that sufficient nutrients are available for healthy plant establishment. 

I would often respond to the question “what do you do for work?” with “I sell fertiliser”, however I have come to realise that my role is much more than that. Every day I am privileged to be welcomed onfarm by passionate farmers to engage in conversations about their businesses, understand their challenges and identify opportunities. Being challenged by
challenging my customers is uncomfortable but it’s a risk I need to take and one I am enjoying very much.