Jodie Hattingh recently graduated with her Masters in Agricultural Economics through the Department of Agricultural Economics, Extension and Rural Development at the University of Pretoria. We spoke to her about her studies and her graduation.
How did you decide to study Agricultural Economics?
I initially wanted to become a vet (because I have a huge love for animals) and applied for it but I knew it was a longshot to be accepted for the course. For my second choice on my application form, my dad and I did some research on careers that will enable me to still work with animals and nature but that would also incorporate business and accounting as I did well in those subjects in high school. We found the Agricultural economics degree which ended up being the best fit for me ever. I’m so glad that I ended up in this field instead of veterinary sciences.
Why do you think this field is important?
I only realised how important Agri Econ is as a field when I started my career in an Agricultural Economics position in 2019 with BFAP (Bureau of Food and Agricultural Policy). BFAP does amazing work for the industry, from robust and economic analysis for producer organisations to advising policymakers and the industry on trends and outlooks. BFAP also has a variety of divisions that assist the industry as a whole, from rural development, production analytics, socio-economic impact, to econometric modelling and forecasting. I truly feel that I am making a difference throughout the value chain within the Agricultural industry as an Agricultural Economist.
Did you enjoy your studies?
Masters is no walk in the park and takes a lot of dedication and discipline (which I only learned during my studies). It has truly been one of the most challenging phases in my life but I am extremely proud that I finished. My favourite part had to be the coursework, especially my institutional economics course with Dr Melissa van der Merwe. Postgraduate classes broaden your thinking in such an exceptional way and really does teach critical thinking in a way that undergrad studies just don't. Even though the coursework was a great experience, it also challenged me almost as much as writing my dissertation did, as the courses are a big step up from undergraduate work.
What was your research topic and what inspired it?
The topic of my dissertation was "A profitability and risk assessment of market strategies for potato producers in South Africa". The topic was inspired by various factors. In my final year of my undergrad, as the top student for Agric Econ, I was chosen to attend the PMA (Produce Marketing Association) Fresh summit conference in the USA. This experience was one of a kind and showed me how dynamic and robust the fresh produce industry is compared to the other industries we were exposed to during undergrad (such as the grains and livestock industry) and I just fell in love with the fresh produce industry and I knew I wanted to do my Dissertation on the fresh produce industry. In 2017 as I started my Masters, I had the opportunity to work in the fresh produce industry at a fresh produce market agency called Farm Fresh Direct that traded online, facilitated by a company called Freshlinq. My working at Farm fresh direct gave me the idea of comparing online markets to national fresh produce markets. When I started at BFAP in 2019 I got the opportunity to discuss my Master research with Potato SA and they assisted me with expense data and therefore I ended up focussing on potatoes.
What skills from your studies do you think were important for influencing your future career goals?
As hard as it is to say, my most difficult courses (stats in undergrad and Econometrics in post-grad) has been the most beneficial in my current role and future career. While everything I learnt has been important, these two subjects enabled me to understand and run statistical and economic models which are core to what I currently do.
Did you enjoy your graduation?
For me, graduations have never been just about graduation. The day of my undergrad graduation I got engaged to my now-husband Renier Hattingh (we got married during my masters) and during my post-grad graduation, we were able to celebrate my husbands honours degree in Mechanical engineering, as well as his graduation, was in April 2020 and he never had a proper graduation due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
A huge congratulations to Jodie and all the other students who graduated with her at this years’ Spring graduation!