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

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.

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.

Third-generation farmer, David Hunter from ‘Box Hill’ in north-western New South Wales, who completed the program last year, says while he was the first in his family to attend one of Rabobank’s programs he was prompted to attend by positive ‘word-of-mouth’.

Mr Hunter, who manages his family’s vertically-integrated cropping business, which sees them plant around 13,000 hectares of coarse grains annually, works closely with his sister who is responsible for the livestock side of the business and his parents who oversee the business.

Mr Hunter says that working closely with his family and also managing staff and contractors makes good communication essential.

“Before attending the Farm Managers Program, members of our business completed a 360-degree survey, which gave me some invaluable feedback on my management style,” he said.

While Mr Hunter said some of the results were a “little surprising”, it was an excellent exercise to understand how to best manage yourself and communicate effectively with others.

“I have learnt to delegate more effectively through leadership,” Mr Hunter said.

Holding management responsibility right across the cropping cycle from crop selection through to the planting, managing the growing cycle, harvest, storage and freight logistics, Mr Hunter 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.

“And the process was simpler than you would think, articulating your goals into a written plan.”

Mr Hunter said that while some of their goals were “put on hold” by the dry season, they are in place and ready to action.

And thankfully the rains have come, with the Hunter family receiving 180 millimetres across parts of the farm in January to give those areas a full profile of moisture.

Mr Hunter said one of the key strengths of the Farm Managers Program is that all topics are delivered in “an agricultural context” – with an emphasis on how each participant could apply the learnings to their own business.

“For example, we took along our own financial statements for the financial management sessions, which meant we were nutting it out on our own figures,” he said.

2015 is shaping up to be a big year for Mr Hunter’s cropping program.

“The rains have really lifted spirits and I will be concentrating on our soil, and implementing ways to lift yields, improve farming practices and increase production,” he said.

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

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 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