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Opportunity to learn alongside progressive young farmers – applications open for 2016 Farm Managers Program

Expansion of the family farming business was the motivation for fifth-generation farmer Ben Watson to apply for Rabobank’s Farm Managers Program, to help take his business to the next level with confidence and a better understanding of business management principals.

Armed with the mindset “to learn and make some changes”, Mr Watson completed the week-long Farm Managers Program in 2015.

“In hindsight”, Mr Watson says he “should have done the program earlier” as it equipped him with “practical tools to implement straight back into the business” and “an armful of contacts”, as it brought together some of Australia and New Zealand's most progressive young farmers.

Mr Watson, who is a director of his family’s farming business, Allabah Farming, near Wee Waa in north-western New South Wales, says many of the skills he developed on the program have come into the fore as the business has expanded – to now consist of dryland cropping, irrigated cotton, wool and prime lamb production.

“With the expansion, we now have more staff, so for me, the most beneficial sessions were the ones around communication and managing people,” he says.

Announcing the opening of applications for the 2016 Farm Managers Program, which will be held in South Australia’s Barossa Valley in June, Rabobank Australia national manager Country Banking Todd Charteris said the program was now considered a ‘must’ for young farmers wanting to be at the forefront of agricultural trends and business management.

“The future decision-makers in farming cannot afford to sit still, and this program focusses on equipping them with the skills and understanding the fundamentals of good business management to help navigate in this increasingly complex environment,” he said. “By developing these skills early in one’s career, it also puts farmers in good stead for taking over the reins of the family business or stepping up into managerial positions.”

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

Mr Watson says the program not only reinforced the importance of effective communication, with Allabah Farming hosting weekly planning meetings with its team, but also showed the importance of “involving staff in the decision-making capability of the business”.

“Also there are different dynamics when working with family, and I am not only working alongside my parents, but my cousin is our cotton manager and my best mate from school also works with us,” he says.

The Farm Managers Program’s business planning sessions were also invaluable, he says. However it was having the opportunity to learn alongside some of Australia and New Zealand’s most progressive young farmers that Mr Watson says was the biggest advantage of attending the program, and he has now built an extensive network of farmers from a broad range of agricultural sectors.

“Even though we all came from completely different businesses and enterprises, we found we were all facing similar issues – particularly around managing staff and expanding our business,” he says.

Mr Watson says this interaction with other like-minded farmers and the program’s lecturers, as well as the opportunity to visit an innovative local poultry operation through the farm tour component of the program, emphasised the benefit of “face-to-face” learning, in an era of e-learning.

“I keep in touch with quite a few that did the course, and might even get over to New Zealand to visit some of them on their places,” he says.

Applications for the 2016 Rabobank Farm Managers Program are open until April 15. The program will run from June 5 to 10 at the Novotel, Barossa Valley, South Australia, with 36 spaces available for farmers from Australia and New Zealand.

Producers interested in an application form or any further information on the Rabobank Farm Managers Program should visit our Business Management Programs or contact Rabobank business programs manager Nerida Sweetapple on 02 6363 5910 or email nerida.sweetapple@rabobank.com.


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 40 countries, servicing the needs of approximately 8.8 million clients worldwide through a network of more than 1000 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.

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Denise Shaw
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Rabobank Australia & New Zealand 
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Email: denise.shaw@rabobank.com  


Skye Ward
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Rabobank Australia & New Zealand
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Email: skye.ward@rabobank.com