Prominent agricultural high achievers, Jim Geltch and Anna Speer, have been recognised for their respective agribusiness success stories at this year’s Rabobank Leadership Awards.
Mr Geltch, the chief executive officer of Nuffield International, has played a “fundamentally important” role developing upcoming leadership in the Australian and New Zealand food, beverage and agribusiness sectors.
The southern NSW broadacre tomato farmer, himself a past Nuffield scholar, became Nuffield International’s inaugural chief executive in 2016 after more than a decade leading Nuffield’s agricultural capacity-building activities in Australia.
He was announced this year’s annual Rabobank Leadership Award recipient at a Sydney dinner on Thursday night, although unable to attend in person because he was overseas.
Jim is quite likely responsible for mentoring more agricultural leaders than any other individual in Australia today
Australian Agricultural Company (AACo) chief operating officer, Anna Speer, was named 2018 Rabobank Emerging Leader.
The “emerging” title recognises developing leaders in the farm and food industries.
Ms Speer, whose fast-moving agricultural career began at Consolidated Pastoral Company’s Auvergne Station in 2005, was AuctionsPlus chief executive officer for four years prior to joining AACo in August.
Ms Speer, 36, was described at the 200-guest dinner as “a trailblazer, with vast potential”.
She had already proven herself as a dynamic leader and not daunted by change.
Presenting the awards, Rabobank Australia and NZ group managing director, Peter Knoblanche, said Mr Geltch, from Moama, was one of the industry’s great unsung heroes.
His enormous contribution to agriculture and the food and agribusiness sectors while at Nuffield’s helm was truly deserving of recognition, having made “one of the most fundamentally important contributions to leadership in the industry”.
“Not only is he an extremely accomplished leader in his own right, he has had a huge impact on the sector and done great good by fostering and developing leadership in others,” Mr Knoblanche said.
“Jim has played, and continues to play, an invaluable role in the future growth and prosperity of the sector, by facilitating the development and engagement of the talented young people in our agricultural and agribusiness industries.”
The peer-nominated and judged leadership award is presented to individuals creating sustainable growth and prosperity at corporate and industry level in the food and agribusiness industries, while also demonstrating wider commitment to society.
Mr Knoblanche said Nuffield farming scholarships provided innovative and progressive young farmers and agriculturalists with the opportunity to travel the world to learn best practice and gain a global view on agriculture.
“And this plays an enormously valuable role in helping them manage and drive their businesses, and our sector, into the future,” he said.
During Jim Geltch’s 11 years as Nuffield Australia CEO he guided the program through significant growth.
The number of annual scholarships awarded in partnership with industry and the public sector jumped from 10 to 25.
He then became CEO of the global body encompassing Nuffield Farming Scholarship organisations around the world, including Australia, NZ, Canada, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe as well as associate countries Brazil and the US.
“Jim is quite likely responsible for mentoring more agricultural leaders than any other individual in Australia today,” Mr Knoblanche said.
“Nuffield Scholars who have completed the program during his tenure have gone on to become federal and state members of parliament, to sit on numerous industry boards, become community and business leaders and to develop and demonstrate best farming practice.
I’ve always said travel is the best educator you can have
“And indeed, in some cases, to go on to develop entirely new agricultural industries, like Australian chia industry pioneer John Foss.”
Recent Rabobank Emerging Leaders are also Nuffield Scholars – last year’s winner Nathan Free, an organic farmer from Swan Hill in Victoria, and Australian Fresh Leaf Herbs partner, Jan Vydra.
- Last year’s leadership award winners
- Jim takes Nuffield’s global reins
- Speer’s rise from jillaroo to CEO
In an acceptance speech, via video, Mr Geltch agreed one of the most rewarding aspects of his Nuffield role was witnessing the growth and development of young people in the scholarship program, and the impact it made on the industry.
“I’ve always said travel is the best educator you can have,” he said.
“One of the great pleasures of managing the Nuffield program has been seeing the growth of, in some respects, naïve young men and women who come through the selection process and come back in two years’ time after undertaking their scholarships – seeing the self-confidence they’ve developed and the global view they’ve built about agriculture,” he said.
Mr Geltch believed good leadership was about building relationships.
“The key is about having empathy and relating to people that you’re dealing with,” he said.
“That manifests itself in many different ways, but “I think you need to have people’s trust so when you’re working with them, they don’t see you as a leader as such, but they understand the direction you are taking is the right direction.”
In a testament to his leadership style, Mr Knoblanche said, Mr Geltch had demonstrated enormous generosity in mentoring emerging young agricultural leaders in his own time, providing guidance and encouragement to help them succeed.
Mr Geltch, also helps run his family’s processing tomato operation growing about 30,000 tonnes annually.
I want to assist others in believing they too can do great things in our industry, and to give them the same opportunities that I have had
His own Nuffield scholarship in 1986 explored advances in irrigation technology and computer-based crop modelling in Europe and Israel.
In 2001, he received an Order of Australia Medal for services irrigated agriculture and promotion of agricultural research and education.
Rabobank’s Emerging Leader, Anna Speer, said the accolade would inspire her to continue to “be brave and do great things in our industry”.
“I also want to assist others in believing they too can do great things in our industry, and to give them the same opportunities that I have had,” she said.
“I spend a lot of time working with people, pushing them to think about how they can evolve and stretch.
“Given the amount of support I have had over the years, it is critical to pay it back.”
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