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

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

Applications are now open for up-and-coming farmers looking to undertake the Farm Managers Program in 2015, which will be held near Melbourne in June.

Announcing the opening of applications, Rabobank group executive for Country Banking Australia Peter Knoblanche 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 Australia and New Zealand to come together, share best practice and discuss and workshop ideas,” Mr Knoblanche 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 Australian and New Zealand farmers.

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

Mr Knoblanche 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 Knoblanche 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.

This message resonated with 2014 graduate, Desiree Ryan who said it “emphasised the importance of looking after yourself by striving for balance”, which she admits can be difficult as she also works off-farm as an accountant.

Mrs Ryan, who runs a dairy operation in partnership with her husband, Michael near Allansford in south-western Victoria, says she was given the opportunity to attend the Farm Managers Program by their milk processor, Bega Cheese.

“Bega Cheese sponsored my position on the program, as part of their charter to support young farmers, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for where we are in our business,” Mrs Ryan said.

The Ryans, who manage their enterprise in their own right, said the shift they had undertaken from a share farming arrangement to leasing a 340-acre dairy farm has been challenging.

“Everything now stops with us, as we are totally responsible for making our own decisions,” she said.

Mrs Ryan says one of the key learnings from the Farm Managers Program that has helped with the management of their business is the change in mindset from working ‘in the business’ to working ‘on the business’.

“It can be easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day running of the business, but we are now more focussed on our long-term plan and how we are going to get there,” she said.

Mrs Ryan said the program helped formulate the couple’s long-term plan, through the sessions on strategic business planning.

“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,” she said.

“Central to our plan is our aim to increase production by 15-to-20 per cent per cow.”

Since completing the program, the Ryan’s have used their business plan as the basis for a funding application to increase their productivity through installing an irrigation system.

“The course gave us not only the tools to pull together the funding application but also the confidence to present it to the board of the funding body,” she said.

“And in being successful with our application we have already set-up an irrigation system which will see us operate a summer cropping program for fodder.”

2015 is shaping up to be a big year for the Ryan’s.

Not only have they recently welcomed the birth of their first child, daughter Olivia, but they also remain focussed on developing their summer cropping program and improving the genetics of their young dairy herd.

“Hopefully we are on track to not only increase our herd to 230 cows but to also increase our seasonal production,” she said.

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

Since its inception, 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.

In previous years the course has been oversubscribed and only 36 applicants will be offered places on the program which will be held at the Grange Cleveland Winery, Lancefield, Victoria 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 or contact Rabobank business programs manager Nerida Sweetapple on 02 8115 4139 or email
Rabobank Australia & 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 41 countries, servicing the needs of approximately 10 million clients worldwide through a network of more than 1600 offices and branches. Rabobank Australia & New Zealand is one of Australasia'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 Australia and New Zealand.

Media contacts:

Denise Shaw
Media Relations
Rabobank Australia & New Zealand 
Phone: 02 8115 2744 or 0439 603 525 
Jess Martin
Media Relations
Rabobank Australia & New Zealand 
Phone: 07 3115 1832 or 0418 216 103