Southland TSR Debbie Smith has lifelong ties with the rural sector – and has been part of the Fonterra family for 22 years. Born and bred on a Waimahaka sheep and beef farm, she originally trained as a vet nurse and worked at Vetco for three years before starting her Fonterra career in the mid-90s.
“I spent 10 years in the Milk Treatment Hub running the day-to-day site milk volumes, standardising plants and powder and AMF packing,” says Debbie.
A switch to Farm Source followed, where Debbie has worked mainly in key accounts and TSR roles for the past 12 years. She currently looks after approximately 98 farmers in the Western Southland region, based at the Invercargill and Otautau Farm Source stores.
As her long tenure suggests, Debbie is passionate about Farm Source and being a part of the future of global dairy.
“I love the dynamics of the dairying industry, the challenges it brings, and being able to work with and offer solutions to our hard-working and talented dairy farmers,” she says.
The Farm Source store ‘hubs’ aim to offer farmers streamlined support from people like Debbie, who know the region inside-out. For Debbie, the hubs have a real feeling of community.
“Having the Sustainable Dairying Advisors (SDAs) and wider Fonterra team within our Farm Source hubs means the vibe is great and they’re all on hand to help.”
After five years in the region, Debbie has built solid relationships with her farmers and she credits her success to this.
“It’s a very trust and knowledge-based role and one of the things I enjoy most about it is having the direct relationships with my farming families and being able to advise and add value to their farming business,” says Debbie. And it’s clear her farmers value her input.
“Last month I helped out a farmer with their crop paddocks in the rain and they made me a cup of tea, dried my socks in the clothes drier and also hung my boots to dry in the drying room… great farmers,” she says.
Right now her farmers are busy getting crops in the ground, doing Artificial Breeding (AB) and feed budgeting.
Debbie was involved with the successful trial of Brigadier fodder beet in Southland nine years ago and puts her extensive agronomy experience to good use by helping train new TSRs on crops and new grass. Debbie’s animal health expertise gets called on often as well.
“Recently I had a customer invite me to lunch to say thank you for helping them out with animal health problems - by reducing their cows’ magnesium intake their health went back to normal again.”
Debbie lives with partner Gary and children Jake, two, and Summer, five. “Basically, any downtime is spent with the kids - spending time with them is important to me whether it’s at the beach or on a bush walk. I love duck shooting, boating, music and surrounding myself with a positive and fun group of friends.”