Alana Wallace says Fieldays is the perfect place for young women to get inspired about agriculture and explore the diverse range of career options available.
Born on a farm in Te Awamutu, Ms Wallace, 31, is a crop monitoring coordinator for Fruitfed Supplies (PGG Wrightson), based in Pukekohe. She went to Fieldays throughout her childhood and now comes back year after year as a rural professional to network and keep up-to-date with the latest developments in farming.
“I went to an all-girls school and no one ever came to talk to us about a career in agriculture or opportunities at Lincoln or Massey universities,” she says. “We were encouraged to consider studying literature or English at Victoria or Auckland universities. However, I do have fond memories of busing out to Fieldays with my friends.
“Even my nana, who was a teacher, believed all girls should study to become nurses or teachers. Once she even asked me if I wanted to be a librarian!”
But farming is in Ms Wallace’s blood and she always dreamed about a career where she could work outside and not be stuck in an office all the time.
“I would rather go home physically tired at the end of the day than mentally drained. It’s a much better feeling,” she says.
Together with her sisters Louise and Hannah, Ms Wallace grew up on a dairy farm at Pukeatua, south of Cambridge. The family’s agricultural heritage and passion for the land saw all three sisters find work in the agricultural industry as adults.
Youngest sister Hannah is an agri-manager for fertiliser company Ravensdown, while middle sister Louise works in farm investment support for FarmRight.
Ms Wallace studied at Lincoln University and worked on PGG Wrightson’s research farm near the campus, which gave her experience in arable and plant breeding.
“The contacts I made on the research farm led to a job doing plant research for DSP in Switzerland for three months. I then went on to work as a service assistant for BNP Paribas in the United Kingdom for two years before coming home to work in-store for PGG Wrightson in Te Awamutu.
“I absolutely love my current role in horticulture. I have a team of scouts from Taupo to Pukekohe and we monitor all human consumption crops, except apples and kiwifruit. As food producers based near Auckland, it’s rewarding to help educate people about where their food comes from and how it’s grown.”
Ms Wallace was also a primary industries ambassador for Futureintech, a school visit programme to help get Kiwi kids excited about science, technology, engineering and maths.
“It was awesome to have the opportunity to share my passion for the primary sector with kids and teach them about the importance of food production,” she says.
Ms Wallace’s 30 year history with Fieldays started with her late grandfather Des James. Mr James was the founder of James Engineering Limited based in Gore. Every year he travelled to Mystery Creek as an exhibitor, to showcase his company’s soil aerator equipment.
“As well as an opportunity to remember Grandad, Fieldays is a chance for me to network and catch up with my old Lincoln friends and colleagues, who are all now working in the primary sector.”
The Wallace Sisters’ story will debut as a 30-second television commercial during Country Calendar on TVNZ 1 this Sunday June 10 from 7pm. A longer version of Wallace Sisters’ story is available in the new documentary box set Fieldays Stories, available on TVNZ OnDemand (TVNZ.co.nz).
“I am looking forward to joining my sisters and my parents at Fieldays this year and being part of the 50th anniversary celebrations,” says Ms Wallace. “It is an honour to feature in the television campaign and represent the thousands of people whose lives have been touched by Fieldays over the years.”
Marketing manager for Fieldays, Taryn Storey, says the Wallace sisters are the epitome of the event as it celebrates 50 years.
“They’ve gone with their parents and grandparents, and as adults they continue to go back,” she says. “Fieldays really is an event for the whole family and an experience that gets passed down from generation to generation.”