Ag Pathways programme helps young farmers take the next step in their agri careers

Twenty-nine young farmers from the Otago, Southland and Canterbury regions recently spent a day-and-a-half sharpening their business management and planning skills at the latest edition of Rabobank’s Ag Pathways programme.

An initiative of Rabobank’s Lower South Island Client Council, the Ag Pathways programme aims to develop young farmers skills and contacts so they can advance their careers in the agricultural sector. The 2024 Ag Pathways was the seventh edition of the programme and more than 150 young farmers from across the Lower South Island have now attended Ag Pathways since the inaugural event in 2015.

The latest South Island edition of Ag Pathways was held at the Croydon Lodge in Gore in late April and was attended by young farmers – including several farming couples – working in the industry across a range of sectors and roles. 

Rabobank Lower South Island Client Council Chair Craig Whiteside said the 2024 Ag Pathways programme cohort was one of the largest groups to date. 

“We had 29 attendees on the latest edition of the programme making it one of the biggest groups we’ve ever had. And I think this is likely down to the positive feedback past participants of the programme have passed on to other farmers from around the region,” he said. 

Gore Ag Pathways Cohort

Mr Whiteside, who owns and operates a large-scale arable farming operation in South Otago, said the programme gives participants a range of tools to help them move forward with their agricultural careers.

“Across the one and a half days, the attendees heard from presenters covering a bunch of different topics including personality testing, financial skills, succession planning, people leadership and business planning,” he said.

“On top of this, the agenda also featured a ‘war stories’ segment where three local farmers came in and spoke to the group about their farming journey and how they have grown their own businesses.

“This session always proves really popular as the attendees love hearing from other farmers who have encountered similar challenges to the ones they’re currently facing. Two of the farmers who spoke this year were ex-Ag Pathways participants, so it was also really valuable for attendees to hear about the ongoing benefits of attendance on the programme.” 

Along with a number of Rabobank staff, Mr Whiteside said he was joined at the programme by several other members of Rabobank’s Lower South Island Client Council.

“Our client council members have plenty of useful knowledge and experience to share, so it was fantastic to have several of them there to interact with participants and to provide their perspectives on different topics,” he said.

As a follow-up to the programme, Mr Whiteside said, attendees would get together again in June to present back to the group a business plan on what they want to achieve in the future. 

“This is a really important component of the programme as it ensures the participants are immediately acting on some of the new information they’ve picked up at the course, and it also helps to further build the connection between the attendees,” he said.

Ag Pathways participant, Kelly-Anne Hopper

Programme participant Kelly-Anne Hopper – who is the ‘2IC’ on her family’s robotic dairy farm located in Woodlands near Invercargill – said she’d been on the look-out for personal development courses and became aware of Ag Pathways via the family’s bank manager, Rabobank’s Mark Hunter.

“Mark sent me some information on Ag Pathways and I’m really glad I signed up as it was an excellent course,” she said.

“The information presented was easy to follow and I learnt a lot over the day and a half, particularly about topics like financial literacy and how to start a business which I hadn’t really come across before.”

Ms Hopper said she also appreciated the opportunity to get together with other young farmers “in the same boat” as her.

“I thoroughly enjoyed networking with the other farmers on the course,” she said.

“I found the programme environment very welcoming and there was plenty of useful advice that came from the discussions with other attendees,’ she said.

Ms Hopper said the follow-up group get together scheduled for June really made attendees accountable and that she’d already decided what she would present at this session.

“I plan on covering off how I intend to grow equity so I can buy a dairy herd, as well as the steps I’m taking to develop a team of professionals to help with this,” she said.

“My participation in Ag Pathways has definitely lit a bit of a fire under me, and provided me with the confidence to make some important steps towards the achievement of my goals.” Due to the success of the South Island event, a North Island Ag Pathways was run for the first time in 2023 and a second programme is now scheduled to take place in June this year. To find out more about this event, please email:

Rabobank New Zealand is a part of the global Rabobank Group, the world’s leading specialist in food and agribusiness banking. Rabobank has more than 120 years’ experience providing customized banking and finance solutions to businesses involved in all aspects of food and agribusiness. Rabobank is structured as a cooperative and operates in 38 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 27 offices throughout New Zealand.


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Rabobank New Zealand
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