Celebrating 10 years of educating leaders in agriculture
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Celebrating 10 years of educating up-and-coming leaders in agriculture - applications open for 2015 program

February 23, 2015


This year marks the 10th year of Rabobank’s Farm Managers Program, with more than 300 young farmers from across New Zealand and Australia graduating from the program since its inception in 2006.

Applications are now open for up-and-coming New Zealand farmers looking to undertake the 2015 Farm Managers Program.

Announcing the opening of applications, Rabobank New Zealand CEO Ben Russell said the Farm Managers Program had grown in its own right to be considered a “must” for young farmers looking to take over the reins of the family property or manage a commercial farming entity.

“The program offers a unique opportunity for farmers from across New Zealand and Australia to come together, share best practice and discuss and workshop ideas,” Mr Russell said.

“And we see those relationships continue well after the program has finished, with participants often drawing on their network of like-minded farmers.”

Designed to strengthen the operational and strategic skills of emerging farmers, the Farm Managers Program is modelled on the highly-respected Rabobank Executive Development Program, a long-standing business development course for leading New Zealand and Australian farmers.

The program covers topics including global trends in agriculture, business planning, financial management, leadership and succession planning.

Mr Russell said up-and-coming farmers wanting to take their farm business to the next level should consider completing the program.

“Not only will the program focus on tools and strategies to help manage your business, it will also look at ways to effectively manage others but most importantly, how to manage yourself,” he said.

“Because most of us spend so much time and energy looking after our stock, land and machinery we often forget to look after ourselves, and this can have negative impacts on our business.”

Mr Russell said it was for that reason Rabobank had recently incorporated a new topic focussing on physical and mental wellbeing.

“Last year the participants were literally put through their paces with an early morning session with former Wallaby and Super 15 loosehead prop, Nic Henderson. And this was complimented by a workshop around changing unhealthy behaviours, attitudes and stressors to improve productivity and resilience,” he said.

Over the past decade, the program has seen members of the same family farming business graduate from the course – with three of the 2014 participants following in their siblings’ footsteps and others having family or business colleagues attend the Executive Development Program.

Last year also saw the first husband and wife team simultaneously complete the Farm Managers Program, which put them on the “same page” to develop and grow their business.

Fifth generation bull beef producer, Rob Simpson from ‘Heaton Park’ in the lower North Island, who completed the program last year, says he was encouraged to attend the course by his father-in-law, who was one of the first graduates of Rabobank’s Executive Development Program.

“My father-in-law got a lot out of the program, and I thought it would be a good way to move forward in my own farming business,” he said.

Mr Simpson describes the course as the catalyst for changing his mindset, from one of working ‘in the business’ to working ‘on the business’.

“Before attending the program I was in that mindset of working all the time, but now I am consciously working on ways to cut down on wasted time,” he said.

“This has given me more time with my young family – especially on the weekends – and I am more motivated and productive than before.”

Having recently taken on the responsibility of managing the family farm, Mr Simpson says the sessions around strategic business planning were particularly valuable.

“During the course we developed our own individual business plans, identifying our goals for the business and then working on how to implement and monitor our plan,” he said.

“These business planning sessions alone made the trip to Australia for the program more than worthwhile.”

Mr Simpson says one of the key strengths of the program is that all sessions are delivered in ‘an agricultural context’ – with an emphasis on how each participant could apply the learnings to their own business.

“We weren’t using case studies like we did at university, rather we were each thinking of how we could use the tools and strategies directly in our own business,” he said.

This ‘hands-on’ style of learning is reinforced by the program’s management project, a post-course initiative that sees each participant take the tools and ideas learned at the program and apply these to their own business.

Mr Simpson, who is in the process of completing his project, says it is centred on the calf-rearing side of the business and the development of short to medium-term business plans for this enterprise.

“By clearly setting out our objectives I am hoping to create more flexibility from the weather and market pressures. And in doing so, set our business in a more profitable and stable direction,” he said.

Applications for the 2015 Rabobank Farm Managers Program are open until 27 April.

In previous years the course has been oversubscribed and only 36 applicants from across New Zealand and Australia will be offered places on the program which will be held at the Grange Cleveland Winery, Victoria, Australia from Monday 15 to Friday 19 June, 2015.

Producers interested in an application form or any further information on the Rabobank Farm Managers Program should visit www.rabobank.co.nz/bmp or contact Rabobank business programs manager Nerida Sweetapple on +61 2 8115 4139 or email

Rabobank New Zealand & Australia is a part of the international Rabobank Group, the world's leading specialist in food and agribusiness banking. Rabobank has more than 115 years' experience providing customised banking and finance solutions to businesses involved in all aspects of food and agribusiness. Rabobank is structured as a cooperative and operates in 41 countries, servicing the needs of approximately 10 million clients worldwide through a network of more than 1600 offices and branches. Rabobank New Zealand & Australia is one of New Zealand's leading rural lenders and a significant provider of business and corporate banking and financial services to the region's food and agribusiness sector. The bank has 94 branches throughout New Zealand & Australia.

Media contacts:
Denise Shaw
Media Relations
Rabobank Australia & New Zealand
Phone: +61 2 8115 2744 or +61 439 603 525 
Email: denise.shaw@rabobank.com

Jess Webb
Media Relations
Rabobank Australia & New Zealand
Phone: +61 7 3115 1832 or +61 418 216 103
Email: jess.webb@rabobank.com
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