A PUSH in the right direction was all young gun Elly Mckenney, 21, needed to fall into the agricultural industry.
Some people are lucky enough to be born into the industry and others stumble into it.
Elly was one of those people who, at the age of 15, found herself working in a shearing shed and the start of her agriculture journey.
Now she finds herself completing her third year in a Bachelor of Agricultural Business Management through Charles Sturt University at the Muresk Campus.
Born in Albany in 1996, Elly moved with her parents to Frankland, where her father, who was originally from a sheep farm in Kojonup, was planting vineyards and her mother working as a rousabout.
When Elly was two, her family moved north to Hooley station in the Pilbara, where they managed the station for a year.
Continuing north, the Mckenney family found themselves in the Kimberleys, with Elly’s mother working as a cook and her father at the tyre shop in Kununurra.
By the age of three, Elly had moved from the bottom of WA to the very top of the State.
“I completed kindergarten to the first part of year seven at Kununurra District High School, and we left the Kimberleys when I was 11,” Elly said.
Kununurra to Busselton was a big move for Elly, starting at a new school, where she stayed for a short three months before their move to Geraldton.
While in Busselton, Elly helped her uncles and mother on the family farm feeding calves before school.
Elly went to Geraldton Grammar School for the second half of year seven and year eight before the financial downturn took her father’s job on the mines.
In September 2009 they packed up again and moved to Lake Grace.
By the age of 12 Elly had seen most of regional WA and was ready to settle in one place.
Lake Grace is still the residing home of the Mckenney family with her parents running the local tyre shop.
The Great Southern area has provided Elly with the experience and motivation she needed to be where she is today.
After finishing year eight and nine at Lake Grace High School, in 2011 Elly went to boarding school at Great Southern Grammar, Albany.
“Dad said I came back to Lake Grace with an attitude problem, I didn’t think I had one but dad was dead set I did because I wasn’t interested in school,” she said.
“He said if you aren’t going to pull your head in you can go working, and I spent the entire summer as a roustabout.”
Elly said she was 15 and into a shearing shed where it was a sink or swim, just deal with it situation.
When Elly left school at 16 she never intended of going to university due to her dislike of formal education.
The shearing shed was the first introduction to the agriculture industry and it ignited a flame in her that has progressed into a Bachelor of Agricultural Business Management.
She spent a year in shearing sheds around the Lake Grace area, where she said she found it interesting how wool was affected by certain stages of its life.
“I realised I can be a rousabout my whole life, which is fine, in saying that I really couldn’t progress anywhere,” she said.
When Elly came out of her teenage years she was looking for more purpose in life after her carefree attitude.
Elly said she got to the point where she realised she needed to do something better with herself.
“I ended up with a job in town at Primaries and I lost the interest in shearing sheds the older I got,” Elly said.
She worked as the sales admin and store assistant with entry level jobs until she started to show interest in other opportunities.
Getting herself around people in the industry, and learning about farming in depth was the first step in Elly’s move to Muresk.
Elly said Primaries was great because she had access to different stud information and the way they recorded things and the value of special traits.
“Primaries helped to train me in livestock and sent me on different courses to progress me to the next step,” she said.
The size of the company meant Elly had the opportunity to explore different areas in agriculture.
It was then she realised she could work for 13 years and progress a little bit in the company, or she could get herself a degree and she could sell herself better as a professional in her field.
“I wanted the degree that tells me I can understand the law talk, I understand how farms work, I understand in depth what the producers and customers want,” she said.
Elly won a Primaries scholarship which helped to pay for two semesters of board at Muresk, which she said has helped financially as she started her third year last week.
“It’s a great degree because it gives you a good starting block, with crops, pastures, animal science or whatever you want to branch into,” she said.
“The opportunities to study breeding or you can get an agronomy traineeship from this in either horticulture, broadacre or forestry.”
On the first day at university Elly said she was definitely more interested in livestock and especially cattle, which she is still interested in, although she isn’t sure if it’s now 100 per cent what she wants to do.
She hopes to travel Australia after university and plans to use her experiences to work in different aspects of the industry including export, domestic and station work.
“Something that spun me out was my interest in horticulture agronomy, especially with horticulture being an industry that is screaming for people to build knowledge in depth,” she said.
Elly said she was interested in how people were heading into alternative farming practices, such as running two crops at the same time.
“I have never had to grow up on a farm that is three generations of cropping the same thing over and over again,” she said.
“I grew up in an Ag area in the Kimberley, where they are still trying new things up there at the moment.”
Elly said she has never had more opportunities than she does now, whether she finds herself in business or agriculture.
In 2013 Elly started showing dairy cattle which she still finds herself doing today.
“People asked me if I would help out as a handler and others were willing to help me find my feet,” she said.
In 2016 she went to the Angus Youth Roundup in Armadale, New South Wales, one of the biggest cattle camps in the southern hemisphere, where she was sponsored by the WA Angus Committee.
“Last year I was the leader for WA Youth Cattle Handlers Camp in the dairy section, after being an attendee for two years prior in the beef section,” she said.
Elly believes there is no industry more willing to help than people in agriculture and she is lucky to have found herself in such an accepting environment.
“Any time I ask a question, someone is always willing to help or at least try and point me in the right direction, which is why I love it,” she said.