Opportunity to learn alongside like-minded farmers
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Opportunity to learn alongside like-minded farmers – applications open for 2016 Farm Managers Program

The “once in a lifetime opportunity to spend a week with other like-minded farmers and world class presenters” was the impetus for third-generation farmer Blair Drysdale to apply for the Rabobank Farm Managers Program.

A graduate of last year’s program, Blair says he “can’t fully quantify the benefits” of building an extensive network of farmers from across New Zealand and Australia, some who he says will be “friends for life.”

The Farm Managers Program – developed specifically for up-and-coming farmers to enhance their commercial management skills – covers topics including global trends in agriculture, business planning, financial management, leadership and succession planning. Applications to join the 2016 program have just opened.

Blair and his wife Jody, took over the family farming business near Balfour in Northern Southland in 2009, and have transformed the predominately sheep operation into a diverse enterprise consisting of cereals (wheat, barley, oats and peas), grazing dairy heifers and cows, sheep and beef cattle, with land also leased out annually for tulips.

“Our diversity has helped spread our risk,” he says. “And by not having a fixed system or rotation, we have flexibility and take a forward-looking approach by adapting our enterprise mix in line with the medium-term commodity outlook. For example, this season we are increasing our beef herd slightly and reducing our cereal acreage due to the current state of the markets.”

Announcing the opening of applications for the 2016 Farm Managers Program, which will be held in Australia in the iconic Barossa Valley in June, Rabobank general manager Country Banking New Zealand Hayley Moynihan said the program was now considered a “must” for young farmers wanting to be at the forefront of agricultural trends and business management.

“In the increasingly complex environment in which farmers now operate, this program is perhaps more important than ever, as it equips them with the fundamentals of good business management to solidify and grow their businesses,” she said. “And by developing these skills early in their career, younger farmers are able to think more strategically, manage risks and develop their people skills and capability – which are important when running any business or stepping into managerial positions.”

Blair says, while all the program topics were beneficial and could be practically applied back into his business, he took the most away from the financial management session.

“While preparing budgets has always been an important component of our business, I now have a new skill set to analyse the financial performance of our business by benchmarking our return on equity and capital ratios, so that we truly understand our position and can make improvements,” he says.

Since returning home from the program, Blair has undertaken a scenario analysis around nutrient management and input use on his family’s farming enterprise. This has formed the basis of his Management Project, a post-course exercise which gives graduates of the Farm Managers Program the framework to put into practice and develop the skills, tools and ideas they took away from the course.

“By conducting a more rigorous soil testing program before and after every crop, my project aims to determine the optimal rate of fertiliser that we can apply to our crops to achieve desired yields while also meeting increasingly demanding environmental standards,” he says.

“By reducing our nutrient use, this will not only provide a cost benefit back to the business but also an environmental benefit.”

The sessions around farm succession and people management were also pertinent to his business, Blair says.

“Even though we have already been through succession with my parents, the program highlighted that succession is a never-ending process and that Jody and I should give more thought to our own succession – even though our children are still very young,” he says.

“I also took a lot away from the feedback on my management style, which was obtained via a survey that our staff and contractors completed prior to the program,” he says. “It was also really interesting to hear how others on the program manage their staff – as their approaches were all so diverse.”

Blair said that while he had a lot in common with everyone in the room, “it was hard to comprehend the scale of some of the operations – particularly in Australia” and how conversely, “many of the Australian producers were amazed by how much farmers could produce off their acreages here in New Zealand”.

Applications for the 2016 Rabobank Farm Managers Program are open until April 15. The program will run from June 5 to 10 at the Novotel, Barossa Valley, South Australia, with 36 spaces available for farmers from New Zealand and Australia.

Producers interested in an application form or any further information on the Rabobank Farm Managers Program should visit our Business Management Programs or contact Rabobank business programs manager Nerida Sweetapple on +61 2 6363 5910 or email nerida.sweetapple@rabobank.com.

Rabobank New Zealand 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 40 countries, servicing the needs of approximately 8.8 million clients worldwide through a network of more than 1000 offices and branches. Rabobank New Zealand is one of New Zealand's leading rural lenders and a significant provider of business and corporate banking and financial services to country's food and agribusiness sector. The bank has 33 branches throughout New Zealand. Rabobank also operates RaboDirect, New Zealand’s first internet-only bank specialising in savings and deposits.

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Rabobank Australia & New Zealand 
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David Johnston
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Rabobank New Zealand
Phone: 04 819 2711 or 027 477 8153
Email: david.johnston@rabobank.com