Equipping Young Farmers For The Future

NEW ZEALAND - Factoring in the price of carbon, water availability and the expected rapid growth in demand from our Asian neighbours for food and fibre will be all in a day‟s work New Zealand farmers in the not-too-distant future.
calendar icon 14 April 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

Equipping young farmers with the nous and know-how to effectively manage macro agricultural issues as they arise will be one of the key focuses of Rabobank’s Farm Managers Programme (FMP) in 2010, says Neil Dobbin, group executive country banking for specialist agribusiness lender Rabobank.

“Agricultural markets are evolving at such a rapid pace that tomorrow‟s farm leaders will need to master the art of change management in order to prosper,” says Mr Dobbin.

“They‟ll need to anticipate and address the "big trains" that are coming around the corner. For example, for dairy farmers this might mean working out at what point a future carbon tax will impact on their profitability and plans to cater to the increased demand from China.

“The Farm Managers Programme not only provides a forum for young farmers from across New Zealand and Australia to discuss these challenging issues, but also how to drive the strategic direction of their farm business to proactively handle change before it begins to adversely affect their bottom line.”

The 2010 Rabobank Farm Managers Programme will be held at Clear Mountain Lodge in Brisbane, Australia from 18 to 22 October, with the number of participants limited to 36. The programme, which is now in its fifth year, is modelled on the bank‟s highly-respected Executive Development Programme (EDP) and aims to strengthen the operational and strategic skills of tomorrow‟s farm leaders, covering topics around leadership, business planning, financial and economic management and succession planning.

Rabobank business programmes manager Skye Ward says the five-day residential course has received considerable praise from past participants. “Last year‟s graduates gave the course a satisfaction rating of five out of five,” says Ms Ward.

Scott Levings, who completed the Rabobank Farm Managers Programme in 2009 and manages a 640-cow dairy operation in Central Otago, says the agricultural focus of the programme was what initially drew him to it.

“Unlike most of the attendees, I had not grown up on a farm and my earlier career was in engineering,” he says.

“The FMP is perfect because it is directly geared towards farm management and, although there are many similarities across management, there are also a number of nuances in agriculture that other sectors do not have to deal with.”

Mr Levings manages a dairy farm that is owned by his parents-in-law Gaynor and Grant Scott, who have both attended Rabobank‟s Executive Development Programme. He says his father-in-law‟s enthusiasm for Rabobank‟s business management programmes encouraged him to attend.

“Grant came back from the course very enthused about the business and now I can see why. The mixture of farm-focused courses and great networking opportunities has really encouraged me to continue to develop and improve our farming enterprise.

“Since attending the course I am also more aware of how our business decisions affect staff and, although we have always been staff focused, I have definitely sought to increase communication. We have now started having weekly farm meetings to ensure that everyone‟s on the same page and also to give staff the opportunity to discuss any issues they may be having.

“If you are a farm manager who wants to find a way to focus on your business I would advise attending the FMP. The program will highlight areas of weakness that you can improve on and whatever your goal is – whether it‟s profitability, HR or work/life balance – you will be given the tools to develop skills and improve your operations.”

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