Tractor crazy: one of bush's only female farm machinery reps

MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Michelle Mesner is passionate about the future of agriculture.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Michelle Mesner is passionate about the future of agriculture. Contributed

GROWING up "being a girl" was never an excuse for Michelle Mesner to escape the paddock and it's an approach holding true still.

Today the 22-year-old is one of the only female farm machinery sales representatives in the state.

Despite her youth, it's not the first time she has forged a way for women in an industry traditionally dominated by blokes.

Before her latest job she was one of the few females working as a spare parts interpreter.

Yet for a girl from the bush - home was a sheep and cattle property called Marango, 30km north of Bollon - with a genuine love of agriculture, she was destined to make a career in the rural industry.

It was more a question of "as what?".

"Growing up I lived on the property with my mum and dad, Dianne and Paddy Mesner, but because the roads were so rough I boarded at a hostel in town during the week from Year 2," Michelle said. "It was actually really good fun.

"My brother and sister were much older than me (they are 32 and 34 now) so being at the hostel meant I had a lot of kids to play with."

After her primary years, she headed to boarding school in Toowoomba, which she describes as a "major adjustment".

"I was used to boarding but living in the city was very different from growing up on a property and in a small country town," Michelle explained.

"It was a different demographic and a different type of community."

Early on her parents had instilled in her a strong sense of community through their involvement with the local show society, QCWA, Landcare and other rural and regional organisations.

"My parents definitely defined the way I look at the rural industry. I want to be involved and making a difference," she said.

"My dad died when I was 14, which was really hard, but he remains one of my biggest inspirations.

"He was involved in the capping of the first bores as part of the Great Artesian Basin project and he taught me everyone can make a difference.

"And, of course, my mum is an inspiration. She's been a pillar of strength and is still very involved in running the family property."

After finishing school, Michelle went to work at Mort and Co's Grassdale Feedlot - the 50,000-head capacity feedlot is one of the largest in the southern hemisphere - as a pen rider.

The 12-month stint there taught her a lot, including the fact she wanted more career challenges.

She admits being a little "tractor crazy" led her into the machinery sector.

"There are definitely some gender stereotypes in the industry but I have found once customers get past that they have been fantastic.

"If I don't know the answers, I know where to find them."

With her job she then shifted to Goondiwindi and threw herself into her new community, accepting the chance to run in the local showgirl competition.

When she won the 2014 title, her emphasis was on explaining it as "more than a sash".

"I believe agricultural shows are ideal to network and showcase what the next generation of young people are doing in the rural industry."

It was also in her showgirl role at Goondiwindi that she stepped in "to make up numbers" and ended up winning the prestigious Gilbert Lang Memorial Trophy for farm produce judging.

Today she is juggling work with study. She is completing a Bachelor of Agribusiness majoring in research agronomy through the University of New England, along with a swag of other roles, including being part of the grain industry's Innovation Generation for farmers aged 18-35 years.

"I think the most important thing we can do as young people in agriculture is share our stories and tell the world about the creative and innovative practices that are changing and improving the way we produce food.

"What I think we need to stop doing is talking about the gap between city and country.

"It's more constructive to talk about the similarities.

"We all have mortgages, jobs, anxieties, ambitions ... our offices simply have a different view."

 Michelle will be writing regular columns for the Rural Weekly exploring the issues facing young people in agriculture.

Topics:  goondiwindi