WHEN Alana Hartley was eight-years-old, she told her teacher she wanted to be a farmer when she grew up.
The response was that she couldn't because she didn't live in the country and that only boys could be farmers.
Needless to say, that response from her teacher planted the seed in her head and Ms Hartley set out to show the world that she could be a farmer, just like her grandmother was.
"I draw on my grandmother's strength as a female farmer back in the 40s and early 50s, where she farmed with her father, as well as holding down a job as livestock sales manager with Dalgety's at the Midland saleyards," Ms Hartley said.
"It taught me that gender shouldn't limit your ability to contribute to the industry in a positive way and she certainly did that, even in a time where working women were less common.
"With a bit of thick skin and work ethic, she earned respect from her male peers and I think today women in agriculture, including myself, are far more accepted than they ever have been before."
These days, Ms Hartley is Australian Grain Technologies' (AGT) marketing and seed production manager for WA, in which she acts as a conduit for the promotion of the AGT brand, its breeding program and the crop varieties it delivers to market.
"To get where I am now, though, I took a few left turns and loop-de-loops but I don't regret it," Ms Hartley said.
"I may not be a farmer and I might not be married to one, but I still get to work in a diverse and interesting industry."
Ms Hartley started a medical science degree at university but found herself wanting to spend more time outdoors rather than behind the four walls of a lab, so she took a gap year, ended up working at CBH over the summer holidays and never went back to her degree.
When she was driving back from a short break in the city, she heard an advert on the radio for the Muresk Institute, so she went to Northam to take a look and the rest is history.
After having completed many different jobs in the industry - including a harvest job with a grain marketing firm in Perth, an agronomist with Landmark in Wyalkatchem and Wongan Hills and with the Liebe Group as the research and development co-ordinator - Ms Hartley landed her current role which, for the most part, is about building relationships with growers and industry.
"Early studies in agribusiness or ag science set you up to step into so many different career paths and on-the-job learning and professional development opportunities in ag are abundant," Ms Hartley said.
"With a bit of extra training I could go back to agronomy, move into grain marketing or farm business management - all really different careers but all reliant on the one relationship, that with the farmers."
Being the head of marketing in WA for the country's largest plant breeding company isn't enough for Ms Hartley and she has been tossing up going back to study.
She believes a masters in business would be good to help strengthen her business knowledge, especially if she one day decides to go into farm business management.
"I also love the entrepreneurial nature of the industry, it challenges you every day to think more broadly as no two seasons are the same and no two farm businesses are the same," Ms Hartley said.
"Working in the ag industry is also like working with a large group of friends - everyone knows everyone and while the industry is so big, the community is small and there is a lot of support out there with great mentors to help you achieve your career goals along the way."