Opportunity to join ranks of Australia & NZ’s leading farmers – applications open for 2024 Rabobank business programs


More than 1300 of Australia and New Zealand’s most progressive farmers have graduated from Rabobank’s Business Management Programs over the past 25 years. And this year, more will have the opportunity to join their ranks, with applications now open for the 2024 intake of the programs.

Tailored for farmers at different stages in their career, the two programs on offer – the Executive Development Program for farm business owners or senior managers and the Farm Managers Program for up-and-coming farmers – are designed to equip participants with the latest in business management thinking.

Announcing the opening of applications for 2024, Rabobank regional manager Australia and New Zealand Mark Wiessing said both programs provide an excellent opportunity for leading producers to gather and learn from each other.

“There has never really been a better time to join one of the programs with like-minded producers from across the two countries and a range of different sectors,” he said.

Mr Wiessing said many farmers through the course of 2023 have been dealing with the impacts of volatile commodity markets and variable climatic conditions, and it was even more important to remain focused on the “big picture” and have plans in place for the longer-term viability of the business.

“It is vital farmers have the opportunity to step back for a few days from the day-to-day operational side of the business to refresh the mindset and develop strategies to ensure the business remains resilient going into the future,” he said.

The Executive Development Program (EDP), which will be held in Sydney, is delivered over two fast-paced week-long modules run over consecutive years covering topics including strategic planning, financial management, communication, governance, negotiation, global trends, sustainability/carbon emissions, innovation and risk. The first module will be held in August this year.

Mr Wiessing said the EDP participants’ partners are also invited to join the program for the last two days of the second module, allowing them to work together on topics such as succession planning, resilience and human resource management.

EDP alumni and winner of the 2023 Dr John Morris’ Business Development Prize – a prestigious trans-Tasman business prize awarded annually as part of the program – Sam Conway believes networking opportunities are one of the strengths of the program.

“It’s one thing learning from a textbook, but the knowledge gained from networking opportunities and honest and frank discussions with peers is often invaluable,” he said.

Mr Conway, from Gunnedah, is the chief executive officer of Boolah Farms, an integrated farm management, grain-handling and broadacre contracting business.

He established the collaborative farming model (known as ‘Co-Farming’) in 2020 with his wife Molly, and Stuart and Lyndall Tighe from Pallamallawa, and used the EDP as an opportunity to prepare a business plan and develop a strategy outlining why the business needed to grow, and how.

“It was such an impressive network of people participating in the course, all from various agricultural sectors – including industries I have very little exposure to,” Mr Conway said.

“The learning environment contributed to discussions that were honest and open, and we soon realised many business impacts tended to be quite universal across all farm businesses – it was really eye opening and you could see the discussions adding value immediately.”

While the content of the course was excellent throughout, Mr Conway said the robust discussions within the group on implementation, challenges and solutions was where the real value lay.

The Farm Managers Program, a week-long course developed for primary producers in the earlier stages of their career wanting to build management skills and increase their confidence and ability to influence business decisions, will be run in Victoria’s Yarra Valley in mid-June, Mr Wiessing said.

“The Farm Managers Program really helps up-and-coming producers to get out of that day-to-day thinking and start to look at the business with a more strategic mindset around business planning, people management and financial analysis,” he said.

With numbers on each course limited to maintain group dynamics, positions on the programs are set to be highly contested, with farmers selected to attend from a wide range of commodities and geographical regions across Australia and New Zealand.

Applications are open until 22 March 2024 for the Executive Development Program and Farm Managers Program as follows:

  • The Farm Managers Program, 16 to 21 June 2024 in Yarra Valley, Victoria.
  • The Executive Development Program, 25 to 30 August 2024 followed by the second module from 27 July to 1 August 2025, both in Sydney, New South Wales.

/Public Release.