GROWING UP around dairy farming has given Ashlee Hammond a strong foundation to build her working career in agriculture on.
The trials and tribulations, opportunities and challenges of dairy farming have been a great grounding for her role at the UDV — and have also set up a lifelong love of the industry.
Ms Hammond, 25, has spent the past seven years at university (with two remaining) juggling her studies with positions at the VFF. She was recently rewarded with a promotion to UDV acting manager.
“I love working with farmers and travelling around the region for work. There are so many issues constantly evolving and no two days are ever the same, it is always changing,” she said.
The role is diverse and encompasses many aspects of the dairy industry including budgets, strategic planning, and oversight of policy development.
“I’m now managing a team of five, while managing day-to-day operations. While policy is not ‘sexy’, it is a complex area that is constantly changing and can have huge and rapid impacts across the entire industry.”
Growing up on a dairy farm at Kerang in northern Victoria, Ms Hammond has always been inspired and interested in agriculture.
She completed a Certificate II in Agriculture at secondary school, and went on to study a Bachelor of Agriculture Science at La Trobe University in Bundoora, with honours in ruminant nutrition. She is currently halfway through a Masters of Agribusiness at Marcus Oldham.
“The masters has given me the business skills that I felt I was lacking after my science degree. I really enjoy study and I am not just doing it for the piece of paper, I’m doing it because I find it interesting and relevant.”
Ms Hammond started working on the Young Agribusiness Professionals committee during her first year of university.
“I was interested in the policy space and wanted to find out more about what that meant, and ended up staying there for three years,” she said.
“I then started working for the VFF, doing reception and casual work and then got a job as a project and policy officer with the UDV in 2015, and my roles have evolved from that point on.”
Ms Hammond said working with the UDV was challenging, but she surrounded herself with a great support network.
“I have still had to prove myself over the years but more and more women are stepping up in the industry and into leadership roles, which I think is great.”
She acknowledges the UDV may not have been that great at promoting its work over the past few years, and she sees that as an area that can be improved.
“A lot of our work is confidential and behind the scenes,” she said.
“It has been a tumultuous few years for the industry and its farmers and I find it very humbling to work for an organisation fully funded by farmers who think we will do a good job on their behalf — protecting them and the industry they love.”
While Ms Hammond is looking forward to a long career in the dairy industry, she is not adverse to the idea of moving into other commodities.
“I definitely see a long-term career in the dairy industry, but I’m also keen to spend a few years working in a different commodity, to see how it works.
“If you focus on one industry, I think you can get stuck on particular issues, or focus on the negatives, while working across other industries, you can take a break and restart, while still constantly learning.”
She is hoping to see as many dairy farmers as possible, both young and old, attend the UDV Dairy Conference on Friday, May 4 at the MCG. This year’s theme is ‘Everyday Advocacy’.
The conference kicks-off with the annual young farmers’ breakfast, which will feature guest speakers from the 2018 Gardiner UDV New Zealand study tour, and concludes with the president’s dinner.
The conference is free for all farmers, with a charge for the president’s dinner. To register, visit www.vff.org.au/udvconference