Course by course, Jennifer Bessell has studied her way from a long career in nursing into a new life in agriculture. After many years as an operating theatre nurse, she was ready to move to a rural area and live on the land.
Jennifer decided she wanted the skills and knowledge to be able to care for her family property, so signed up for a farm chemical users short course because she wanted to wack some weeds in the safest possible way.
That taste of studying sent her into a Certificate III in Agriculture (ACH30116), then a Certificate IV in Agriculture (ACH40116).
Jennifer found the agriculture program deeply inspiring and useful and has just completed her Diploma of Agriculture (AHC50116). She is ready to make her next move.
Jennifer says she was always drawn to country life. ‘As a young girl, I always wanted to be a farmer, but I grew up in the city,’ she says. ‘In those days there was there was no pathway for women, unless you grew up on a farm. People would say to me “I could see you as a farmer’s wife” and that was the progression for women back in the day.’
Jennifer ‘married a farm boy’ whose parents have a small property in northern Victoria and despite their careers tying them to the city, there was a firm desire to move up to that area and look after the farm.
‘I wanted to move there and be a responsible custodian of the land and animals,’ she says. ‘There were things that I needed to do first. I needed the basic skills - driving a tractor, working out fertilisers - so I enrolled in Certificate III in Agriculture (ACH30116).’
Jennifer was working part-time and studied part-time, starting with the entry-level course because although she had the study skills (with a Master’s in Nursing) to do a diploma, ‘as far as agriculture was concerned, I started from zero’.
‘I was going to stop at the end of Certificate III, but just at the end of it Melbourne Polytechnic announced that they were going to run a Certificate IV, not such a big step, so I did that one. It was so interesting and I wanted to learn more, so of course I then went on to do the diploma.’
The Certificate IIII in Agriculture gave her more of the theory and the reasoning behind farming operations, and the diploma built on that again. Units from the Certificate IV in Agriculture (ACH40116) can be used towards the Diploma, which sped Jennifer along her way.
Now she has graduated and travel restrictions have finally lifted between metro Melbourne and regional Victoria, Jennifer is planning her move.
The plan for the 20 acre property is to keep chickens for eggs, the black and white Sussex birds and maybe some Rhode Island red. They need to do some renovations, prepare the chicken runs, restore pastures, plant native vegetation and manage bushland in an exclusion zone.
Being a responsible custodian of the land means a lot to Jennifer.
‘The land is something I've always felt a connection with,’ she says. ‘I’ve always felt that we are responsible for the land that we live on. I'm only here for a short time and then I've got to pass it on to somebody else. I want to pass on the land in a better condition than I found it in. I think there's been enough pillaging of the earth, we need to take care of it and pass it on to the next generation in good condition.’
Jennifer’s main reason for doing the courses was to equip herself with the skills and knowledge she needs to work on their own property, being the boss of their own profitable enterprise. But she enjoys knowing that now there are a lot of new options for her if she did want to work for someone else in the industry.
One aspect of the program that Jennifer found agreeable was that the teachers treated everyone the same, no matter their age or experience.
‘The teachers had that amazing knowledge,’ she says. ‘You could ask them anything and because they've been in the industry, they knew the answers and could give us examples because they’ve been out in the field. They’d all been farmers or working in those areas.’
Melbourne Polytechnic's Agriculture facilities
Melbourne Polytechnic’s agriculture courses are run in Melbourne’s north, at Yan Yean commercial farm with pastures, cropping and livestock; and Northern Lodge with horses, pastures and cattle. Our Epping campus offers students a practical learning experience by applying skills you learn from day one, in our industrial training facilities for agriculture, aquaculture, meat processing, viticulture and winemaking.