While her family farm is now completely surrounded by dairy farms, Beef + Lamb New Zealand scholar Isabel Tait's future ambitions remain firmly focused on sheep farming.
The 21-year-old from Otahuti has just finished her Bachelor of AgriScience degree at Massey University and is about to begin her honours year, which will focus on the effect of skin thickness on lamb survival.
Isabel grew up on her parents' intensive sheep farm and is interested in the animal science behind farming, as well as soils and pastures - all aspects covered by the AgriScience degree.
After graduating, she plans to either become a farm consultant or work in a farm technical support role. In the long-term, she hopes to own a sheep farm of her own.
Isabel is in her fourth year of study, supported by the B+LNZ scholarship, which is worth $5000 annually for up to four years, but it is dependent on achieving a B+ average grade.
"The Beef + Lamb scholarship has awarded me financial support, but also the ability to network with industry leaders and to be inspired by like-minded people," she said.
Isabel was also the 2013 New Zealand Institute of Agriculture and Horticultural Science "Leading Student" - a prize awarded to the Massey University student with the overall best grades in science.
Fellow B+LNZ scholar Robert Gregory was equally passionate about sheep and beef farming.
Another high achiever, Robert recently won the title of supreme champion junior judge of sheep meat breeds at the Manawatu A&P Show, during a hotly contested trans-Tasman competition.
The 19-year-old grew up on a lifestyle block outside of Gore and worked for Chatton farmer Graeme Gardyne during his school holidays and weekends.
The hands-on experience fuelled Robert's interest in the sector.
"I chose to study a Bachelor of Commerce in Agriculture at Lincoln University because I have an interest in numbers and business.
"I'd like to work as a rural banker after I graduate - so I can learn more about the industry, develop networks and build equity."
Robert, who is now in his second year, said agriculture was a sector filled with opportunities.
"If you want to be part of an exciting industry that is constantly developing and will continue to be a very important sector in the world economy, then agriculture is a great way to go."
Southland was also home to two other B+LNZ scholars: Robert's brother Allen, now in his third year doing an Agricultural Science degree at Lincoln University; and James Gardyne, who is also at Lincoln University, in his second year of a Bachelor of Commerce in Agriculture.
Over the past 10 years, B+LNZ has supported more than 40 young people through Lincoln and Massey Universities, and Taratahi and Telford.
B+LNZ chief executive Dr Scott Champion said the organisation continues to be delighted at the high calibre of applicants.
"Our oldest scholars have now been in their careers for about a decade.
"The scholarships are an important part of B+LNZ's work - an investment which provides a return for many, many years as the former scholars build their careers in the industry."
Applications for the B+LNZ scholarships close on February 7 2014.
Details can be found at www.beeflambnz.com.
- The Southland Times
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