The camaraderie and helpful bonds which emerge among farmers participating in Rabobank's celebrated executive development program reached a new level for graduates completing the latest course.
Due to COVID-19's many disruptions and border closures, participants in Rabobank's 23rd EDP, drawn from across Australia and New Zealand, took more than three years to complete what is normally a 12 month schedule, and learnt a lot about patience and supporting their colleagues through frustrating times along the way.
The course program was modified to include extra online learning sessions and opportunities for participants to stay in contact with each other, sharing trans-Tasman pandemic experiences and business insights during lockdowns.
However, the cohort deliberately opted not to complete the program entirely online, and therefore 21 participants recently reunited in Sydney for a final week of post-lockdown face to face learning, debriefings and a graduation dinner.
The $14,000 a head program, which began offering professional development for the agricultural sector back in 1999, features two course modules spanning a host of themes from management style and long term strategic planning, to health and wellbeing strategies, negotiation tactics, financial management and leadership skills.
Rabobank's Australia and NZ chief executive officer, Peter Knoblanche, himself a graduate from the class of 2005, noted the care and special bonds which had grown as the 2022 graduate cohort negotiated three remarkably different and challenging, but strong, years for agriculture.
He said the management program reflected the co-operative banking group's aim to see agriculture and rural communities thrive and survive, helping to inspire producers with knowledge, ideas and the deeper benefits which grow from interaction with each other.
Developing successful farmers and farm businesses also fostered successful industry leaders to guide the industry to greater successes.
More than 800 primary producers have completed the course since it began, and a further 550 farm managers and emerging industry leaders have participated in a similar farm management program.
Mr Knoblanche noted family farming businesses had long been strongly represented in the Rabobank program and successful farming operations were nearly always family-run partnerships.
"By doing this course you are investing in yourselves and your families. It will drive your business further," he said.
Relationships and contacts forged during the EDP also provided participants with a valuable cohort of like-minded colleagues they could turn to for ideas, or trust with discussions which could not necessarily be possible with their neighbours at home.
Graduates from the 2022 course were drawn from the dairy, beef, cotton sheep, grain and "carbon farming" sectors.
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