College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)

Summa cum laude graduate, Mr Ross Tarr.

If at First You Don’t Succeed…

Mr Ross Tarr is over the moon about being awarded his BScAgric degree in plant sciences summa cum laude after a challenging start to his tertiary studies which saw him overcome failure to achieve top results in a field he is passionate about.

Tarr grew up in the Mooi River area of KwaZulu-Natal where he attended Weston Agricultural College. The son of a dairy farm manager, he also spent time living on a beef and maize farm as well as on a poultry farm owned by his grandfather and an uncle.

Surrounded by family and friends in the agricultural industry, Tarr was passionate about pursuing a career in the field.

His Matric mathematics marks were not high enough to get him entry into his chosen programmes so he decided to take a gap year to work in the agricultural sector in South Africa and in England. On his return home he enrolled in UKZN’s Extended Learning Programme to improve his mathematics which he did and was accepted at the University just before his chosen course was full.

Having not taken Physics and Chemistry at school, Tarr found the subjects challenging in his first semester – a combination of difficult new concepts and not putting in study resulted in him failing Chemistry in his first year.

Tarr was undeterred and consulted with advisors who helped him schedule his modules to finish in time. He applied himself putting in considerable extra work and participating attentively in lectures, tutorials and hot-seat sessions. He completed any past papers that were available and spent time teaching himself concepts plus interacting with tutors to get extra help when he needed it. These efforts resulted in good results for his Chemistry modules.

This bumpy start to his studies motivated Tarr to work hard generally to give himself the best chance of being competitive for future work opportunities.

Tarr had this advice for students: ‘Don’t rely on anyone else for your results. Put in the work and the hours because what you put in is what you will get out,’ he said.

Family and friends all played important roles in his success. He paid tribute to his late father for motivating him to excel in a way that would have made his dad proud, and he thanked his mother, brother, girlfriend, his brother’s fiancée, and other family members and friends for their input into his life and achievements.

Now working as a technical sales representative for biological crop protection company RealIPM South Africa, Tarr spends most of his working hours visiting farmers to advise them on methods to increase yields, decrease chemical resistance, and ultimately improve plant and soil health. He hopes to gain practical experience in his field before looking to further his studies through a master’s degree.

Further down the line, he aims to become a consulting agronomist running his own firm and developing his interest in farming by setting up hydroponic systems, beginning on his grandfather’s farm.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied