When did your adventure within Raffinerie Tirlemontoise start?
After finishing my studies I started working at the university, for the Walloon administration. After one year I applied for a job at Raffinerie Tirlemontoise, and as luck would have it, the Brugelette plant took me on just a few months later. That was in 1999. My first campaigns were spent dealing with deliveries of beets, and then shared with the coproducts department, which was where I ended my time at the plant. The Brugelette plant closed in 2007, but I continued looking after some of the customers at Tienen. In 2009 I joined the agronomic department at Longchamps.
What does your working day look like?
It all depends on the time of year! During the campaign, it’s the processing of the pulp which dictates the rhythm of my day. The idea is to coordinate the flow of more than 4,100 tonnes of compressed pulp per day, either using our plant trucks or via the farmers themselves. Lots of phone calls, a healthy dose of humour and a little stress are what makes up each day.
For the rest of the year my work is regulated by the seasons, and by the 330 growers for whom I’m Raffinerie Tirlemontoise’s main contact. We start by ordering the seed. We do this by visiting the farms directly, or by ordering via mail/ web portal. When the seeds have been delivered and the fertile soil is ready to receive them, the seedlings’ journey begins. We ensure that backup is in place, we take care of seed returns – basically we monitor the seedlings’ development. Up to the end of June we have quite a lot of different things to keep us busy (worries about the field, getting or giving advice on weed control, etc.). No two days are alike, and that’s what makes the job appealing.
How would you describe the atmosphere at Raffinerie Tirlemontoise?
It’s like one big family! In the agronomic department we know each other really well. The campaign is a key factor in determining the atmosphere in the department, with lots of improvisation and mutual support. Between the campaigns the agronomic work is more personal, except where logistical preparation is involved.
What do you think of your job and life at Raffinerie Tirlemontoise?
Such a varied job is unique. I get to meet lots of nice people, not only colleagues and growers, but also our service providers, in particular truck drivers and crane operators. Its seasonal nature can sometimes make it intrusive – you’re always on call. The end of the quotas in 2017 also brought its share on uncertainty. But colleagues are on hand to smooth things over.