Keeping one foot in the country
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Keeping one foot in the country - Matilda Stump

Category Leadership

Matilda Stump

She’s young, bright and as capable in the paddock as she is behind a desk –Matilda Stump is the new breed of agricultural professionals destined to sustain agriculture well into the future.

As Rabobank’s internal communications manager, this is a girl who can ‘talk the talk’, as well as ‘walk the walk’ – as demonstrated by the seemingly never-ending stream of meals Matilda is currently helping prepare and run from the homestead to the hungry harvest crew on her parent’s northern NSW dryland cropping operation.

After the devastation of drought over recent years, this year’s harvest was an event she was not going to miss.

“It’s been great to be able to work from up here at home during the day and help out my parents in the evenings and weekends, and to see harvest again in its full glory, it’s a very welcome relief to see so much grain around.”

Drought is no stranger to Matilda, who admits that for a long time her notion of growing up on the farm was highly romanticised.

“The property was a place full of animals, freedom, isolation and a wonderful escape during school holidays,” she reflects. “We always helped with various jobs like stick picking - which is as dull as it sounds - to calf marking or mustering, but I saw these jobs in the whole romantic vein of life on the land.”

It wasn’t until after she finished school, during a stint driving the chaser bin for her father over harvest, that she realised the harsh reality of life on the land.

“For most of my high school years we were in bad, to really bad, drought and this was the first big year in about six. But, during that harvest, I saw the place differently. I saw the operation in full business mode and the way Dad, running everything, had to wear so many different hats.”

“I loved the variety of what we would talk about – from the logistics of grain, to the marketing, to people management, to the agronomy, to limiting compaction on the soil with the amount of traffic covering the country,” she said.

“I had always known Mum and Dad had to juggle many things, we’re 160kms from a supermarket on 30kms of dirt road which is impassable in the wet, but this just opened my eyes to the opportunities and intellectual challenges of farming.”

While Matilda’s fondest childhood memories revolve around the vast space and time outdoors – from horse riding, catching yabbies, building cubby houses along the creek, or roaring around in the farm vehicle aptly named ‘Ferrari’ as it had no roof – the independence and freedom to explore was a unique opportunity, for which she is grateful. 

It also perhaps encouraged an open-mind when it came to her future career path.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do career wise, I always loved coming home and trying to keep one foot in the country and one in the city, but never considered Ag as a career option,” she said.

However, armed with an English degree and a job in Sydney, it was her father who suggested she attend a Rabo Young Farmers Day in Moree – an idea she brushed off as ‘ridiculous’.

Grabbing the opportunity to return home for the weekend regardless, Matilda indulged her father and attended the event – a fateful decision that proved pivotal and set her path towards agribusiness.

“I was struck by Nerida Sweetapple talking about the Business Management Programs Rabobank runs - I loved the connection of knowledge and networks to the agriculture industry and saw ideas and opportunities for jobs I had never even thought about or heard about.”

With her eye’s set firmly on a career with Rabobank, the fact there were no current jobs on offer was little deterrent.

Matilda smiles that she ‘weaselled’ her way into Nerida’s team before the first Cockatoo Island Farm2Fork event, and over the past five years with the bank has since worked in a number of non-financial roles with the educational programs, events, and now in communications.

While the sustainability conversation often centres on the longevity of our agricultural landscapes, the sustainability of people within the industry is just as critical, and the healthy future of agriculture is an issue Matilda considers with passion.

“I am really interested in the sustainability of people in our industry in conjunction with looking after the country we farm for generations to come,” she said.

“There is the challenge of ensuring the sustainability and viability of businesses through tumultuous seasons, the challenge of keeping the industry attractive to all sorts of professionals – not just farmers, and finally, the challenge of using the land effectively, productively and respectfully. “

These three challenges – viability, people and land productivity – she said, were all interesting and difficult, and she feels excited about the different ways of thinking and ideas people are investigating to help tackle the potential issues of sustainability.

Educational opportunities within agriculture is also a topic close to her heart – her work on the Business Management Programs, helping farmers with mini-MBA style modules focused on managing yourself, managing others and managing the business – providing insight into the management tools needed to run a successful business.

“The best farmers seem to be always looking for new ideas, questioning and testing the status quo, and balancing the enthusiasm of the up-and-coming generations with the wisdom of experienced farmers.”

Matilda Stump

This year Matilda has had an even greater opportunity to dust off her farmer’s hat, having moved from Sydney to a property outside Tamworth – and she’s loving being back on a farm full-time helping out – ‘or getting in the way’, she laughs. 

As such, she’ll be sticking to her day job, and is grateful her role at Rabobank affords her a genuine connection to farmers, and the fact that so much of the company’s ethos mirrors that of its clients.

“I feel really proud to work in Ag and to help support people like my Dad - who are relentlessly tenacious, innovative and good humoured considering the different challenges that come their way. The attitude most farmers have, their drive and can-do attitude, is a great thing to be around.”

This National Ag Day Matilda is hopeful harvest will be drawing to a close, and she plans to prepare something extra tasty for the harvest crew to help get them over the line.

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