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Young farmers see bright future

Young farmers see bright future - Education to play vital role

Knowledge, business skills and sharing experiences are vital for success in a volatile agricultural environment according to a group of leading young farmers, who say they see opportunity and a bright future for themselves in the industry.

The group was made up of 36 of Australia and New Zealand’s most promising young farmers, who had gathered in Christchurch, New Zealand to attend Rabobank’s second Farm Managers Program (FMP) held earlier this month.

Amongst the key challenges that the participants - who came from as far as Port Headland Western Australia and Te Anau in the South Island - identified as looming large in their futures’ included globalisation, labour management, technological advancement, diversification, the scale of farming and the importance of environmental image.

Each of these challenges also presented an opportunity according to the group, providing they had the skills necessary to capitalise on it and a willingness to embrace change – something Charlie Mackinnon, operations manager of family sheep and cattle business Kaladbro Pastoral Co in Victoria, said would remain a constant challenge in the agricultural industry going forward.

“You have to evolve and adapt in this business or you are going to fail. There is certainly a bright future if you can embrace change and look for the opportunity it brings; that’s something that was really reinforced at the FMP - it was life changing.

“The course really reaffirmed my positive view of agriculture. Sitting in a room with like-minded people who are young, intelligent, positive and driven really gave me a kick along,” Mr Mackinnon said.

Education is an area that Mr Mackinnon thinks could be emphasised more for young farmers as they grapple with the challenges of working within family businesses, adapting to technological advancement and meeting changing consumer demands.

“Because the nature of this business changes so rapidly – and the pace of change will only increase – I see education as vitally important. Education is an empowering way to prepare for the future and to secure as much control over the outcomes for your business as possible,” he says.

Over the week, the group participated in sessions lead by business experts on topics such as business planning, people management, financial management, time management and succession planning, with the content of each session developed and presented in such a way that it was directly relevant to young farmers. Group projects and an interactive environment also provided the opportunity for networking and the sharing of ideas between the Australian and New Zealand farmers.

Bruce Wickham, stock manager for Westbrook Farm, a mixed beef and arable farm, situated west of Oamaru, said that this was in itself one of the most valuable learning opportunities to come out of the FMP.

“I got a lot out of talking to the other participants on the course. I was amazed at how diverse the participants businesses were and equally how diverse our skills sets were – we each had something unique to offer.

“I think that it’s important that as farmers, and as business men and women, we capitalise on our varied strengths and great diversity. The FMP gave us a chance to do just this. Spending time with like-minded positive producers, combined with the empowering content of the course, has changed the way we see our future and the opportunities available to young people in agriculture.”

Speaking at the FMP graduation dinner in Cashmere, Rabobank’s general manager for rural New Zealand, Ben Russell said that the accumulation of knowledge and skills through the program would help participants.

“Agriculture today is highly volatile, dynamic and now is a very exciting and challenging time to have a stake in farming. Volatility creates risk and opportunity. Those who understand the risks and can respond in a timely way will do well,” Mr Russell said.

Some significant global forces are generating considerable unpredictability in food and agribusiness, and they have profound implications for New Zealand and Australian farms - some positive and some negative, he continued.

“The impact that the rise of developing economies is having on consumption patterns, the changing demand profile for grains and oilseeds as a result of the biofuels revolution and climatic conditions are just a few examples,” Mr Russell said.

“The days of certainty and government intervention in the management of commodity markets are coming to an end,” he continued. “The challenges of farm ownership and profitable management are enormous,” Mr Russell added that the participant’s involvement in the FMP was an important step and that they should be congratulated for taking the time away from their operation to make the investment.

The first course of its kind in Australia and New Zealand the Rabobank Farm Managers Program has been developed to fill a void in the industry, providing participants with a forum to develop business skills and establish a valuable network with other experienced young farmers within the course.

For more information on the Rabobank Farm Managers Program, please contact Kobie Tesoriero, Business Programs Manager on: +61 2 8115 2241 or email to:

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 100 years’ experience providing customised banking and finance solutions to businesses involved in all aspects of food and agribusiness. Rabobank has a AAA credit rating and is rated one of the world’s safest bank by Global Finance magazine. Rabobank operates in 42 countries, servicing the needs of more than nine million clients worldwide through a network of more than 1500 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 78 locations throughout Australasia.

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