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Taupo farm business manager takes out Rabobank business management award

Taupo farm business manager James Van Bohemen has taken out the 2021 Rabobank Management Project Award, a business management prize for up-and-coming farmers.

Selected from a group of New Zealand’s most progressive young farmers – graduates of the 2019 Rabobank Farm Managers Program (FMP) – Mr Van Bohemen was recognised for his business management project, which demonstrated how he had effectively utilised the lessons from the program in his role as the farm business manager at Rangataiki Station. Designed for emerging farmers, the FMP focusses on the development of business management skills, with an emphasis on business planning, leadership, people management and self-awareness.

Rangitaiki Station is located near Taupo and is the largest farm within the Pāmu Farms’ portfolio. The operation totals 8,317ha (effective) and employs 24 staff across a range of enterprises including sheep (breeding and finishing), beef (breeding and finishing), deer (breeding and finishing) and an intensive bull beef system.

Mr Van Bohemen said his management project included two key focus areas: people development and business profitability.

“The people component was centred around attracting good people to the station and then working with them to expand their skill sets. As part of this, individual staff development plans have now been developed for each of our staff and this has allowed me to gain a much better understanding of the areas where our employees want to develop their skills and where they see their careers heading,” he said.

“In addition, we’ve done some work together as a group to develop the culture of the organisation. And we’ve also joined a local Red Meat Profit Partnership Action Network group which helps keep team members up to date on key industry developments as well as providing valuable networking opportunities.”

Mr Van Bohemen said the business focus of his project initially involved analysing the station’s operations and identifying opportunities to make it more profitable.

“Following this process, we made the decision to conduct a farm policy review on our sheep, beef and deer farm systems which I was given the opportunity to lead,” he said.

James Van Bohemen receives the Rabobank Business Management Award and cash prize from Rabobank NZ CEO Todd Charteris

James Van Bohemen receives the Rabobank Business Management Award and cash prize from Rabobank NZ CEO Todd Charteris

Graduates of the 2021 Farm Managers Program at Peppers Clearwater resort in Christchurch

Graduates of the 2021 Farm Managers Program at Peppers Clearwater resort in Christchurch

“This led us to explore a number of different farming policies focussing on creating a simplified, repeatable farm system that could deliver consistent production and profit. The biggest change will be moving the farm to a dairy-origin cow herd from a self-replacing Angus cow herd, whilst reducing cow numbers. On top of this, we’re also looking to introduce a ‘once-bred heifer’ system.”

Mr Van Bohemen was presented with the award at the 2021 Farm Managers Program Graduation Dinner in Christchurch on June 24, which was attended by a selection of graduates from the most recent FMP course in 2019 (the 2020 FMP was cancelled due to Covid-19 travel restrictions). The event was also attended by this year’s crop of FMP participants and other agricultural industry leaders.

Accepting the award and the accompanying $2000 cash prize from Rabobank NZ CEO Todd Charteris, Mr Van Bohemen said he’d found the FMP to be a ‘phenomenal course’ which had changed his mind set on his own career aspirations.

“When I undertook the course in 2019, I was the farm operations manager at Rangitaiki and I hadn’t really aspired to the Farm Business Manager position as I’d envisaged my future would be in a more hands-on farming role,” he said.

“My attendance on the program changed my thinking on this, as it really sparked my interest in some of the softer skills surrounding farm management — like working on the business and working with people — which are so crucial in running a large-scale farming operation like Rangitaiki. Since then, I’ve moved into the farm business manager role and some of the lessons from the course have proven invaluable.”

“In particular, I found the FMP sessions on people management and succession planning really useful. I’d previously viewed succession planning as something that was only really important in the context of family farming operations, however the session on this topic opened my eyes to the importance of succession planning for all organisations.”

Rabobank South Island regional manager Micheal Dunn acted as one of the judges for the Management Project award and said the management projects were undertaken so that participants could put into practice the tools, theories and ideas from the program and utilise these to make improvements in their own operation.

“James’ management project clearly illustrated what he’d learnt on the program and how he’d taken the learnings to effect positive change at Rangitaiki,” he said.

“His presentation highlighted his willingness to challenge the status quo and, by looking at new opportunities and what could be improved, he’s been able to move the dial within the business. His project also highlighted his focus on self-development and the passion he has for developing people.”

The Rabobank Farm Managers Program has been run since 2006 and offers young farmers from across New Zealand and Australia an opportunity to develop and enhance their business management skills.

Previous editions of the program have seen farmers from both sides of the Tasman joining together on the same course, however, this year, for the first time, separate programs were run in both New Zealand and Australia. The New Zealand Farm Managers Program was attended by 32 Kiwi farmers representing the sheep and beef, deer, dairy and grains sectors.

Participants take away new skills and techniques with a commercially-driven perspective on farm management, and gain the ability to put systems and structures in place to manage growth.

In addition to the class-room based sessions, this year’s program also included a visit to Inisfree Dairy Farm, an 865-cow dairy operation run by Alistair and Sharon Rye located just outside Christchurch. On the visit, participants learnt how the Ryes have applied sound business management practices to grow and maintain their business.


Rabobank New Zealand is a part of the global Rabobank Group, the world’s leading specialist in food and agribusiness banking. Rabobank has nearly 120 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 about 8.6 million clients worldwide through a network of close to 1000 offices and branches. Rabobank New Zealand is one of the country's leading agricultural lenders and a significant provider of business and corporate banking and financial services to the New Zealand food and agribusiness sector. The bank has 32 branches throughout New Zealand.


Media contacts:

David Johnston
Marketing & Media Relations Manager
Rabobank New Zealand
Phone: 04 819 2711 or 027 477 8153

Denise Shaw
Head of Media Relations 
Rabobank Australia & New Zealand 
Phone: +612 8115 2744 or +61 2 439 603 525