Young Adelaide Plains farmer receives industry accolade
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Young Adelaide Plains potato farmer receives industry accolade

May 28, 2015

Young farmer Gavin Hibberd from Virginia on the northern Adelaide Plains has been named the 2015 Rabobank Potatoes South Australia Industry Award winner.

Awarded for his passion and commitment to the potato industry, Mr Hibberd, 32, will receive a scholarship to attend Rabobank’s prestigious Farm Managers Program – a week-long course designed to strengthen the operational and strategic skills of young farmers.

Chuffed to receive the scholarship and award, Mr Hibberd said he was looking forward to the opportunity to learn and develop some of his business and interpersonal skills through the week-long course.

“It’s important to keep learning and keep growing – you need to broaden your mind and not just do what your grandparents or parents did because over time, things change,” Mr Hibberd said.

“As a fourth-generation farmer, I am passionate about growing fresh food and running a successful farm business. I think it’s about setting an example for your kids by working hard and developing your skills as a manager and a leader.”

The Farm Managers Program is modelled on the highly-respected Rabobank Executive Development Program, a long-standing business development course for leading New Zealand and Australian farmers. 2015 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.

Mr Hibberd was raised on a family-owned and operated dry fruit farming business near Mildura in the Sunraysia region. With a longstanding family background in farming and cropping, he followed in his family’s footsteps and began working in local vineyards and table grape farms. This eventually led him to take on a farm management role with Zerella Fresh in South Australia, to become a part of one of the largest growers in the country of potatoes, carrots and onions, where Mr Hibberd has worked for almost six years.

Mr Hibberd lives and works on-farm with the support of his wife, Emily, and two children Archer and Patrick, five and three years-old respectively.

Highly involved in the strategic side of the potato growing and overall management of the 1200 acre Adelaide Plains farm, Mr Hibberd has been conducting trials and benchmarking activities with several potato varietals that will help to lift production and ultimately increase profit margins for Zerella Fresh.

“Over the years, we’ve invested a great deal of time and energy into research and we have run trials to determine the best niche product to grow for Zerella Fresh potatoes,” he said.

“It is important that all of regional farm managers and the agronomy team in the Zerella fresh group work as a team to share lessons learnt and identified best practices.

“A real success has been the team’s ability to learn how to best grow the Maranca variety of potatoes to optimise yield, minimise risk and take advantage of Maranca’s natural strengths.”

One thing Mr Hibberd is looking forward to is learning about the post-farmgate retail business aspect of fresh produce, which he hopes to study in his time on the Farm Managers Program.

“I’ve spent many years growing the crops, so it will be really beneficial to gain further understanding into the market all the way through the supply chain – from seed, to packing, and finally to retail where it hits the consumer,” he said.

“I also manage about 12 to 20 permanent and contract staff at any one time of the year so getting the chance to refine some of my leadership skills and communication techniques will be great. You like to think you’re pretty good at managing people, but you can always improve and get better and at what you’re doing.”

Rabobank state manager for South Australia James Robinson said Mr Hibberd was an ideal recipient for the award due to his all-round experience and passion for the future of the industry.

“Rabobank and Potatoes South Australia have again jointly-sponsored this award as both organisations see it as an integral way of acknowledging and supporting the future leaders of the industry,” Mr Robinson said.

“The Farm Managers Program scholarship will provide Gavin with the opportunity to enhance key skills to develop his capacity to develop the farm business successfully and sustainably.”

In previous years the course has been oversubscribed and only 36 applicants from across Australia and New Zealand are offered places on the program which will be held at the Grange Cleveland Winery, Victoria, Australia from Monday 15 to Friday 19 June, 2015.

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 Webb
Media Relations
Rabobank Australia & New Zealand 
Phone: 07 3115 1832 or 0418 216 103