What is leadership?
For DairyNZ, leadership means being ahead of the game by taking a long-term view, taking positions on farmers’ behalf and supporting them in their work, says DairyNZ strategy and investment leader Dr Bruce Thorrold.
“One aspect of this approach is DairyNZ’s research into areas that will affect dairy farming in the next decade. If we’d started the research into nitrate leaching when regional councils proposed environment limit setting 10-12 years ago, we'd be in trouble. Instead, farmers are already reaping the benefits from 20 years’ research," says Bruce.
“Levy-funded research is also underway into antimicrobial resistance and greenhouse gases.
“These are just three examples of DairyNZ thinking ahead to achieve growth and success for Kiwi dairy farmers, and our sector as a whole.”
“Accepting that we will continue to farm animals, how we farm in future will always be a big challenge,” says Bruce.
“We need to design farm systems that deliver products consumers are willing to pay for, care for our animals to a high standard, and make farms attractive places to work in. And we need to do this in a way that meets our environmental obligations and maintains farming as a viable and attractive business.
“It’s not just about how we drive the cost of milk production down; we must get all these other things right as well.”
Developing women leaders
Traditionally, women haven’t been the decision-makers in the primary industries. But with levy investment in the Dairy Women’s Network (DWN) and the Agri-Women’s Development Trust (AWDT), women now have more opportunities to develop leadership skills.
DWN chief executive Zelda de Villiers believes in identifying future leaders through DWN’s 36 regional groups, and providing them with coaching, mentoring and help to identify suitable development courses.
“Developing leaders is an integral part of what makes DWN unique. Our philosophy for leadership development is ‘leadership by doing’. We aim to provide numerous opportunities for women, some training essentials, a splash of inspiration, and then with coaching and guidance, let them get on with it.”
Meanwhile, since its founding in 2010, AWDT has delivered leadership and governance, and business development training and support, to more than 2000 women now making a positive impact in farming businesses, boardrooms, management and communities.
AWDT won the 'Outstanding Pathway to Governance Leadership' category in last year's Women in Governance Awards, which recognised the organisation for helping women progress into governance leadership roles.
Each year 14 women are selected for a nine-month AWDT Escalator programme. It equips participants with the tools, confidence and support to successfully lead and govern in their chosen fields.
Another way emerging agricultural leaders are being nurtured is through various levy-funded scholarship programmes, such as the Nuffield Farming Scholarships and Kellogg Rural Leadership Programme.
Each year, up to five Nuffield Farming Scholarships are awarded and the chosen scholars embark on a 12-month global learning experience, with a view to fast-tracking the development of emerging leaders in the agri-food sector.
The Kellogg Rural Leadership Programme develops emerging agribusiness leaders to help shape the future of New Zealand agribusiness and rural communities. Each course (two per year) brings together 24 participants – from farmers to agribusiness professionals – to develop their leadership skills and industry knowledge, and network with sector leaders. Each course is six months, with three residential blocks of presentations, discussions and workshops, as well as a personal research project.
Anne Hindson, general manager of the Rural Development Trust, which oversees both programmes, says: “Alumni are making significant contributions and influencing New Zealand’s agri-food sector through on-farm innovation, governance, management and political leadership, applying their skills, knowledge and networks gained in the programmes.”
Dairy environment leaders
Farmers are committed to reducing the environmental footprint of dairying, and this work has been underpinned by DairyNZ’s Dairy Environment Leaders’ Programme initiatives, which began five years ago, driven back then by DairyNZ's Rick Pridmore and farmer/consultant Martin Bennett.
The programme develops and empowers dairy farming leaders to shape a sustainable future for the sector and enhance the communities they live in through regional initiatives and an annual forum where around 100 farmer leaders meet to develop leaders in responsible dairying.
One of the farmer leaders is Jenny Sinclair, who farms with her husband Pete near Te Awamutu in the Waikato. Jenny says she didn’t consider herself a leader but, when lawyer May Chen told the forum in 2014 that it was important to get involved early and not to complain at the other end, she took that advice on board.
“The DEL programme has shown me there are ordinary people out there doing amazing things, stepping up in their communities, becoming part of collaborative policy processes in local government, and telling the good stories to a wider audience.”
For further information
DairyNZ has strategic partnerships with many organisations and contributes levy funds towards leadership development. Check out the opportunities on these websites:
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy February 2018