Clayton Simcock with Rabobank state manager Victoria, Todd Charteris.THIS year marks the 10th anniversary of Rabobank’s Farm Managers Program, celebrating the more than 300 young farmers from across Australia and New Zealand who have graduated 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.”

Taking farms to the next levelDesigned 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.”

Farmers’ wellbeing the focusMr 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.

“This was complemented 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 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.

Enthusiasm was the inspirationThird-generation grazier, Clayton Simcock from Manjimup in the south-west region of Western Australia, who completed the program last year, says he was encouraged to attend by his sister, Katie.

“Katie went on the Farm Managers Program in 2009, and seeing her come back enthused and with new ideas prompted me to give it a go,” he said.

Mr Simcock also credits his father for instilling the mindset of “taking time off the farm to see the big picture”.

Mr Simcock said this way of thinking was also reinforced by the learnings presented on the program, with one of the key messages being the concept of spending more time working ‘on the business’ rather than ‘in the business’.

But perhaps most valuable was spending the week with “like-minded” farmers, with the program attracting young farmers from across Australia and New Zealand and from all commodities.

“While we were all from different industries, I found it very interesting talking to the other farmers and seeing that we could all relate to the same issues,” Mr Simcock said.

“One of the issues many of us are facing is succession planning, and it was interesting to hear from those that are going through it at present, and those that are out the other side.”

The Simcock family is currently working through its own succession plan, with Mr Simcock running the family’s Merino and prime lamb enterprise with his parents and sister.

“With the number of dependent families growing from one to three, we are in a growth phase and looking at ways to expand the business,” he said.

Mr Simcock said that working in family business 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.

“It not only showed me the importance of communicating well, but that you can’t take a blanket approach in how you communicate with each person.

“You need to adapt your style to ensure your message resonates.”

2015 program openApplications 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, from Monday, June 15 to Friday, June 19, 2015.

Producers interested in an application form or any further information on the Rabobank Farm Managers Program should visit the Rabobank website or contact Rabobank business programs manager Nerida Sweetapple by phone on (02) 8115 4139 or email.

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