A Gardiner Dairy Foundation Tertiary Scholarship led to East Gippslander Carley Einsiedel  becoming an agronomist and has opened many doors along the way.

Not only did the scholarship give Carley the financial support to study when drought was severely impacting her family’s farm, it also introduced her to a mentor, retired agricultural consultant Noel Thomas.

On the first day of her course in 2019, Carley was interviewed on the ABC Country Hour, little realising her words would lead to a contact with Noel who continues to guide her as she embarks on her own agricultural consultancy business based in her home town of Boisdale.

Carley’s words about the scholarship and her vision for a career in agronomy struck a chord with Mr Thomas.

“Noel recognised that I had said a similar line regarding my interest in soils, plant and animal health that he had many years ago when he started out,” Carley said.

“He got in contact with me through Gardiner Foundation and since then he has been a mentor and a massive source of knowledge, confidence and materials for my business. That support has been worth as much as the scholarship, and it all came about because of Gardiner.”

Now retired, Mr Thomas guided Carley as she started her own agronomy business, CreAg Services, the title being a riff on creative ag services but also representing her initials.

“I remember when I first told Noel that I was interested in regenerative agriculture,” she said. “It wasn’t a term he was necessarily familiar with, but he did everything possible to ensure I had the resources and opportunities to increase my knowledge on the topic; including organising a group of like-minded young people to bounce ideas and concepts off.

“Noel has not only guided me through the start of my career confidence-wise, he helped me develop a computer program to thoroughly interpret soil tests, and gave me access to a large set of referencing publications and physical tools that are an essential component of a consultant’s toolbox.

“Noel is not only a wealth of professional knowledge and experience, but also an excellent life mentor and a great friend.”

Carley was the Bill Pyle Gardiner Foundation Tertiary Scholarship recipient in 2019. The scholarship paid for her accommodation while she completed her Diploma of Agronomy and Advanced Diploma of Agribusiness Management at Longerenong Agricultural College.

Carley grew up around cattle, soils and agriculture on a dry land beef farm in Boisdale, sparking her life-long interest in the field.

“It’s an intense dairying region and I always wanted to come back here and work in agriculture,” she said.

“I like the diversity; everyone has their particular and differing opinions, which I find really interesting.”

The broad and practical nature of her TAFE-based course fitted nicely with her love of diversity.

“It was extremely broad, which I really appreciated, and they really push a lot of practical skills,” she said. “You get out in the field and get to talk to a lot of farmers and learn the practical side of agriculture as much as the scientific side.”

“I could have done an ag science course at university, but I wasn’t 100 per cent sure about being an agronomist and wanted to learn more about the field. I’m extremely happy that I went to Longerenong. It gave me practical skills that made me ready to work.”

The course might not have happened without the scholarship. “It was a massive help because it paid for my accommodation, which was six hours from home,” Carley said.

Carley took a part-time job with a race trainer but the scholarship meant she could cut back on work and focus more on her studies.

“It was incredibly helpful,” she said. “We were deep in a drought when I left, so it would have been a struggle to complete the course without it.

Carley launched CreAg Services in April and is steadily growing the business and putting her study to good use. “I love communicating with farmers and educating them on their soil status,” she said. “Instead of just telling farmers what to put on and when to do so, I really love getting them involved with their soil and teaching them about that aspect of their farm.”

While enjoying growing her business, the course also stimulated Carley’s interest in regenerative agriculture and she hopes to do more research in the field to incorporate it into her consulting business.

“I’d like to help East Gippsland farmers to restore their soil health and structure, whilst minimizing the overall reliance on chemical inputs,” she said.