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Madison Pannett on GenZ in the primary sector.

Madison Pannett is a 2021 Kellogg Scholar who recently made the news with her Kellogg research on attracting Generation Z into the primary industries.  

You can review her report here, Generation Z and the environment – how can we use their passion to attract them into food and fibre sector careers?

In a nutshell the report takes a close look at how and why the sector’s careers need to be more aligned with this influential generation’s values. 

The interview with Radio New Zealand’s Jesse Mulligan is short and to the point. For anyone looking to bring new talent into their operation, it’s well worth the five-minute investment.  

Madison speaks about the way the primary sector’s economic performance is the most common messaging theme in media, something GenZ are not generally interested in or motivated by.  

According to her research, GenZ are motivated by environmental issues and their ability to make a bigger difference to them. She concludes, a job should be spoken about in terms of how it fits into the bigger picture, particularly regarding global warming – rather than in financial or economic terms.  

Listen to Jesse Mulligan interview Madison below. 

You can also read an earlier article published in the Waikato Herald. In this article Madison also talks about how we might inspire young people into the primary sector. 

Follow the link to read the article on nzherald.co.nz website.

Ben Todhunter: Observations from a high-country station.

Ben Todhunter is a 2006 Nuffield Scholar and High Country Farmer. He farms Cleardale Station with his family in the Rakaia Gorge, Canterbury.  

Below are the closing lines from Jim Morris’s poem ‘Rewards’. They capture the spirit of the high country farmer and as such are personal to Todd. Jim Morris was from neighbouring Manuka Point Station, and is now retired.

The ranges vast are here to stay 
And he’s content to spend his day, 
Working in their rugged grip 
His recompense – the love of it.

This is a compilation of some of Ben’s LinkedIn posts from 2021.

#1. Pressure and release

December 2021 

A young calf got caught away from the main mob. Rather than applying pressure to the calf, Ben backs off, mum doubles back to bring the calf back to the mob herself. 

Quoting Monty Roberts, Ben writes:

Pressure and release. It’s a fundamental tenet of moving livestock. It also applies to humans as well. As a leader, working with tension or pressure to grow someone is a balance. How do you learn to get the judgement right?

Lesley Prior, Tellenby Merino Stud, Commented:  
Great example of good stock handling. Quiet, patient and ‘going with the flow,’ but with gentle direction where necessary.  

#2. Pondering geology

October 2021 

Ben observes that the rocks and stones scattered on his farm have ancient stories to tell.

Ben writes:
A collection of photos of some terminal and lateral moraine boulders. The greywacke rocks have fallen onto glacial ice and were carried up to 70km before being deposited in-situ approximately 18,000 years ago. 

The greywacke was formed over a 200-million-year period as tens of thousands of metres of sediments built up off the edge of Gondwana. The sediments were eventually buried, deformed, hardened, and uplifted to become the rocks that formed the Southern Alps. 

Link to ‘Te Ara – building a continent.’ 

It’s useful therapy to ponder the stories of these rocks when considering your significance, or lack of, in the world. 


Victoria Harvey, Climate change PHD researcher, commented: 
A great reminder of our place and time in this world. Plus, very clean air judging by that lichen. 

#3. Embracing technology

November 2021 

To reduce the time intensive process of matching dam with lamb, and at the same time increasing the quality of pedigree data, Ben introduced smart collars to Cleardale.  

Ben writes:
Our current master shepherd (my father) is proving difficult to replicate and scale. These collars have Bluetooth technology and record proximity to other tags. If they are worn for 48 hours they provide an accurate record of the lambs and their mothers. 

This is the same technology that can be used for some of the proposed contact tracing systems for disease management.  

Helen Thoday, Solutions and Development at DairyNZ, commented: 
That’s so much better than binoculars and spray-painted numbers.

#4. Perspective

May 2021 

Ben observed an interesting play of light and perspective. 

Ben writes:
Fascinating light on a frosty evening. They say the best time to show off livestock is in the afternoon light, but this may be taking it to extremes. 

Gordon Ray, Lecturer at Grenoble Ecole de Management, commented: 
On first impression, almost looks like a bubbly lava flow; when I noticed it’s sheep moving. I’ve worked with a large herd of sheep (1600) and the movement is so fluid as to almost look like slow motion water. Very cool video – thanks for sharing! 

Ben comments:
Gordon Ray, large groups of animals can have real flow. 

#5. Pushing too hard

November 2021 

Curiosity or greed? A heifer gets caught in farm equipment looking for the lush grass beneath it. (the heifer was freed unharmed!)

Ben writes:
You know that time when you just go a little further than you should’ve? 

Peter Stannack commented: 
Boundaries are for testing. How else do you find out who you really are? 

#6. Filling your soul

January 2021 

Concepts of mindfulness, wellbeing, and connection to nature are explored in this post.  

Ben writes:
There’s something deeply therapeutic, listening to and watching water. 

This Awa or river, the Rakaia, is a big part of our lives and has many moods. Here it is flowing at 145 cumecs (cubic metres per second). The highest peak flow ever recorded was 5594 cumecs at midnight on January 9th, 1994.  

We are involved with two groups protecting the special landscapes, flora, and fauna of The Rakaia from the gorge to the main divide. I’d like to extend that to the Coast as well. In a recent assessment the Rakaia scored the highest of all the braided Canterbury rivers to be proposed for World Heritage status. 

The Whanganui River has been granted the status of a legal person. “I am the river; the river is me” affirms the deep connection of the Māori tribes of Whanganui to their ancestral river. 

My connection to the Rakaia is not in that form. It is in the form of wonder, and respect, and love, and a place I can go to fill my soul. Where do you go to fill your soul? 

Sam Martin, Exterior Architecture UK, commented:  
Anywhere I can walk under trees works for me. Which is lucky given the situation here in London and our living so close to many commons and parks. 

#7. A river runs through it

October 2021 

“You have my full attention.” Was Mac’s response to a text last year. 

This is a story about the power of story. The story of a table with a story that tells a story. 

We live beside the Rakaia River. Our Awa originates in the heart of the Southern Alps/Kā Tiritiri o te Moana from the Ramsey and Lyell Glaciers. It is a braided river coloured blue from the glacial flour at its origin. Occasionally Totara logs are carried down river from the mountains and are deposited in front of our farm. 

Now Mac who was a neighbour and a top ad man, has now retired and become an accomplished luthier. He’d made me a stunning guitar from a previous piece of Totara and had expressed interest in working again with the special wood. So, when I found a suitable log, I sent a photo and immediately received the above reply. 

Half an hour later he was on site thinking of possibilities. In his words “You are being trusted with an absolute gem of a tree, and you prepare it with the full respect and care that its mana demand. It was an absolute privilege to be asked to give this tree a new life.” 

We then carved out a small bit suitable for guitars and kept the remainder. Maybe to build a table… 

A few weeks later Mac asked if we’d like him to make a kitchen table for us. 

Yes! Yes, was the response.

Mac enlisted the help of another neighbour and master wood whisperer Rob, to craft something special. 

We had a few other pieces of wood from the replaced decking and guardrails of the historic Rakaia Gorge bridge and knowing the talents of these two we provided dimensions for our house and for my frame and left them to it. 

Now for those who know about farm tables, a lot of business gets done around them, people are hosted, discussions are held and family times are lived around these tables. Being a storyteller Mac knew this and wondered if the table could tell a story? “Could it become a centre-piece, not just physically, but also emotionally and attitudinally? Could it have personality?” 

The idea of a river table was born. A table with whakapapa. 
“The idea was to re-create the tree’s relationship with the Rakaia River, representing its journey to Cleardale and the farm’s relationship with the river.” 

And that is what we’ve got. Timber from the mountains, carried and battered by the river, inlaid with a representation of that braided river and held up by timbers from a bridge to the past, repurposed to create memories into the future for a family whose lives are intertwined with that Awa. 

A special Taonga, which has a story, tells a story and will be part of many more stories. Thanks so much gents. 

Partha Ghosal, Clean Energy, commented:  
“You had my full attention.” So much so I read it twice! Never knew of Totara, let alone that it could make a stunning guitar/table. Something to do with your storytelling flair and a Luthier giving full respect maybe? Just love what you, he, and your wood whisperer achieved in the end. Your special Taonga. 

A typical day on the Value Chain Innovation Study Tour.

Craigmore Farming Horticulture Study Trip

The Value Chain Innovation Programme is made up of three phases spanning six weeks from May 9 to June 19. You can find out more about the programme and its core elements here.

Probably the most involved point of the five-week experience is the industry immersion study tour (Phase Two).

What will a typical day on the tour look like?

A fair description would be “busy”. But here’s more about what to expect.

We should note first that this ‘typical day’ may be subject to pandemic or scheduling related changes. 

Day five. In summary, there will be horticulture, food science and much more on the day. Generally, no one day will be dedicated to a particular value chain, but rather each piece of a value chain will be spread across several days.

You’ll be waking up in Central Hawke’s Bay. It’s an early start with breakfast at 06:30, and on the bus by 08:00.

On this particular day, the first destination is scheduled to be Craigmore’s Springhill Horticulture operation. You’ll arrive by 09:00.

Craigmore Springhill.

Craigmore manages farm and forest investments and was established in 2009 by two New Zealand family farmers, Forbes Elworthy and Mark Cox. Craigmore has an experienced team managing 18,000 hectares of dairy, grazing, forestry, and horticultural properties, that includes Springhill. 

You can preview Craigmore’s Springhill operation in this video

At around 11:00 the bus will depart for Massey University campus in Palmerston North, where you’ll be visiting several units. You should get there by 13:00.

The Riddet Institute.

First stop on campus is the Riddet Institute.

The Riddet Institute aims to build the knowledge and skills to tackle the challenges facing our fast-changing food sector, through discovery-led research at the frontier of food materials science. 

To learn more about Riddet, watch this interview with the Institute’s Deputy Director, Professor Warren McNabb. Scroll to the section beginning 3:15sec and ending 7:40sec for some insight into their work. 

Next is Massey Food Experience and Sensory Testing Laboratory (Feast). 

Feast, Food Pilot, and MAF Digital Lab – Massey University.

To gain a clearer picture about the type of work Feast conduct, look at this short video covering research on the use of a holo-lens. This work was done to determine what impacts mixed-reality technology could have on a consumer’s enjoyment of food. 

Still on the Massey University campus, the next stop is Massey Food Pilot. 

The Food Pilot at Massey includes the largest collection of food processing equipment in the southern hemisphere. They work with innovators and organisations to provide solutions to food-related challenges. 

Food Pilot is part of the New Zealand Food Innovation Network (NZFIN), it provides the facilities and the expertise to develop new products and processes, from idea to commercial success. Services can include evaporating and drying, chopping, mincing, cooking and process control, extrusion and puffing. 

While the this video isn’t on Food Pilot specifically, it does give some indication as to how Food Pilot fits into the FoodHQ ecosystem. There’s also plenty of footage from inside the Food Pilot testing areas. 

The next destination is the Fitzherbert Science Centre, where you will visit the Massey AgriFood Digital Lab

The MAF Digital Lab is a solution focussed research centre developing applications in advanced technology within the primary production, agricultural and food supply chain. MAF leverages Massey University’s wide capability in precision agriculture, primary production science and horticulture supply chains, sensor technology, robotics, AI, and data science.

Massey Univeristy Lab

Later in the afternoon, you are scheduled to visit Fonterra’s Research and Development Centre (FRDC). 

Home to 130 PhDs and 350 dairy patents, innovation is a key part of New Zealand Milk Products’ (NZMP), and ultimately Fonterra’s reason for being. Within NZMP, the FRDC is dedicated to dairy innovation and research. 

This video gives a good introduction to NZMP and the FRDC. 

Wharerata – BBQ dinner.

The next stop is your final destination for the day – Wharerata, where casual drinks and a BBQ dinner will be organised for the group. A quick week one tour review will take place before dinner at this historic homestead.  

By 20:00 you’ll be at your accommodation, where you can enjoy some free time or an early night as you are up at 06:00 the next morning to hit the road again.

The schedule is intense – but it will be worth it!

If you haven’t checked out yet the following podcasts, take the time to listen to Professor Hamish Gow’s Podcast ‘Value chain thinking’, and James Parson’s Podcast ‘When value-add doesn’t add up’. They’re both excellent for further context.  

Contact us with any questions, we’re ready to help. 
If you would like to find out more about the programme, contact Lisa Rogers today. Either call on 021 139 6881, or email at lisarogers@ruralleaders.co.nz.

Ready to register your interest in the Value Chain Innovation Programme?

From the Mackenzie Study: The Case for Kellogg.

Otago University

Work on the Mackenzie study continues with Professor Nathan Berg of the Otago Business School and the Department of Economics made possible with the support of the Mackenzie Charitable Foundation.

Since receiving the results on the gains attributable to participation in the Nuffield Scholarship, collation of results from the Kellogg Alumni survey has now begun.  

While more work needs to be done to present the data, we thought we would share a series of long-form responses from the Kellogg survey. These in themselves begin to paint a picture of the value of the programme to alumni, in terms of personal development, career advancement and industry influence.  

The responses have been left anonymous and any information that might reveal a respondent’s identity has been removed. 

Nearly one hundred Kellogg Alumni completed the survey. 

Searching for further motivation to complete your Kellogg Lincoln or Kellogg Whanganui application? You may find it here. 

What have been your most important accomplishments and did Kellogg play a role?

“Critical analysis of all situations. Kellogg helped solidify this process.” 

Kellogg taught me how to deal with problem situations and be able to answer questions from media reps. Kellogg also gave me confidence to address open meetings of farmers and Iwi reps.

Employment positions held. Community roles held (school board, parish, sport, and service clubs). Kellogg played a role – Yes. Improved skill base particularly around communication and leadership.

“The course helped with critical thinking and confidence.”

“My leadership career and influence. Helped me think strategically and made me match fit.” 

“Understanding myself better, how I affect others. The development of networks and doors opened by the programme. Personal brand building.” 

Contributing to strengthening capability and capacity in the agricultural sector.

“Start-up with two fellow Kelloggers – definitely a result of Kellogg.” 

“Leadership roles on boards of industry specific, or primary sector education boards plus NSO boards… Had creditability and capability having done a recognised course like Kellogg. Throughout the years the networks you form with either people who did it with you or had done it at other times was helpful to open doors and connections.” 

“Underway with a new company starting a new value chain. I completed my Kellogg project on this topic, so it very much helped.” 

“Since being a Kellogger I went onto become a Nuffield Scholar which I regard as a real accomplishment. Following that, I have started a new farm business and [have] become more involved with local industry. Kellogg… opened a lot of doors.” 

Forming a people and training team and ensuring the business had a successful part to play in sector upskilling. My Kellogg project and the learnings around it were the catalyst for this.

“Moving from hands-on farming to a corporate role. Kellogg gave me the networks and confidence to make the move.” 

“…Enjoyed widening my social and professional network and learning of other like-minded people. Having the mix across food production was great – everything from grapes to sheep to kiwifruit to Ag IT.

Kellogg helped with development of governance skills and gave me confidence to get involved in a large number of initiatives.

“Confidence and experiencing others’ opinions and ideas, and great fellowship with others on the course.” 

Kellogg helped me particularly in improving my leadership and social skillsets…”

“Networking and connecting. Having a sound understanding of the basics about how Wellington works was a highlight which I could not have done without the doors that Kellogg opened during that part of the course.” 

“I have played a significant role in building biosecurity preparedness for the primary sector and being a Kellogger has contributed to this, in part by exposing me to some inspirational people – and understanding the habits that lead to success.” 

“It helped me see that the people I viewed as leaders were not that different from me. It gave me confidence in who I am and whetted my appetite for more.” 

“I learned a great deal as a Kellogger, and that has contributed to all I have done…It made me a better person, better equipped with insights and with the ability to consider decisions. But I wasn’t completely hopeless before!” 

“Before the programme, I ran hard and fast at everything I did. This generally worked but came at a huge cost to my family life, my personal life, and my mental health. 

I still push myself every day to be better, but after hearing ways others in my cohort dealt with stress, I was able to learn to keep my mind on the rails. Mainly – I don’t need to do everything on my own. My cohort was the best – heaps of us are still in touch, helping each other along the way.”

“Respect from others for having completed Kellogg and respect between alumni.” 

Horticulture: When a road trip bears fruit.

Central Otago Horticulture - Engagement with industry to find ways to build capability

Lincoln University and the New Zealand Rural Leadership Trust (Rural Leaders), hit the road last week, travelling throughout South and Mid Canterbury and Central Otago.

Professor Hamish Gow of Lincoln University and Chris Parsons, Rural leaders’ CEO, have successfully established stronger links with the horticulture sector and in particular, growers from the pip and stone fruit industries.  

The series of visits were expertly organised, attended, and hosted by Chelsea Donnelly, GoHort Career Progression Manager for Central Otago. The road trip was designed to gain a better understanding of the opportunities for collaboration between Lincoln University, Rural Leaders, and the horticulture sector. 

Also joining the group was Dr. Clive Kaiser, Associate Professor at Lincoln University. Clive is a legend of the cherry fruit industry, and it seemed this status was clear when growers produced Clive’s co-authored book, Sweet Cherries, also known as ‘The International Bible of Cherry Fruit Production.’ “The book would appear from bookshelves, top drawers, and coffee tables, with Clive humbly signing more than a few on request,” said Hamish Gow. 

Professor Gow went on to say,

“This was a real bonus on the trip. To have Clive Kaiser and Chris Parsons there connecting with the sector in such an authentic way, created an atmosphere where the prospect of further collaboration just seemed inevitable.”

The visits included numerous growers, orchards and packhouses, with each discussing the technical production challenges, competency requirements, and opportunities for Rural Leaders and Lincoln University to collaborate in the co-design and development of capability building programmes. 

“Everyone we met was as excited as we were to see both Lincoln University and Rural Leaders engaging with industry. It was a highly productive research trip likely to have exponential benefits for all involved,” enthused Professor Gow. 

Growers and grower groups also expressed interest in exploring the idea of ‘field-labs’ on their farms, as way to further increase productivity and capability, “That’s something we’re extremely excited about exploring”, said Hamish Gow, “If anyone would like to talk more on that idea, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.” 

Professor Gow can be contacted at Hamish.Gow@lincoln.ac.nz 

December 2021: Southland Alumni Connect

The Invercargill Workingmen’s Club saw plenty of Rural Leaders action last week, as the venue for two Thriving Southland Workshops and a get together for Southland’s Nuffield and Kellogg alumni. 

The event was conveniently held next door to the workshops, allowing some to attend both. The get together was hosted by Rural Leaders’ CEO Chris Parsons and Operations and Events Manager Annie Chant and was attended by nearly twenty alumni who listened to Guest Speakers, Steve Wilkins, and Catherine Dickson share their programme stories. 

Stephen (Steve) Wilkins was a 2013 Nuffield Scholarship recipient, who researched the synergies between arable and dairy farming with a focus on effluent and nutrients. Steve spoke about his Nuffield journey, including how he received a call driving home from the Scholarship interview, and was told ‘you’re in’.  

Catherine Dickson completed her Kellogg in 2020. Her research report was National Treasure: Native biodiversity on-farm. Catherine spoke about how important her connection with her cohort is to her.  

We’d like to thank the speakers for their time and thank you to the alumni that managed to make the event.   

Doing better by our people.

There are figures on our primary sector’s labour transience that make for alarming reading. They’re remarkably high. In case you missed them, only 29% of those entering the primary sector remain after three years.  

While factors behind the statistics are complicated, one of the simpler, often cited reasons for leaving the sector is poor workplace culture. That falls strongly into the preventable turnover basket. And preventable turnover equates to 78% of total dairy transience, meaning four out of five people who have left the sector, might’ve stayed, had we done better by them.  

Bad news, old news, good news.

It’s not just farm workplaces buckling culturally under today’s stresses either, it’s large agri-businesses too, with allegations of poor management, and unaddressed toxic cultures more common than they should be. 

In both small farms and in larger business, failure to fix a problem culture can lead to performance issues and the destruction of the relationships with the people and teams helping those operations succeed. That’s the bad news. It’s also old news and too big to wrestle with here. So, we’ll offer a couple of pieces of good news about a few people trying to make a difference instead. 

Individual farms are now leading change, enthusiastically embracing management thinking from other industries. Farm owners, exposed to high performance ideas and practises bring their learning back home, to the farm. Couple this with a wider acceptance of wellbeing philosophies (previously known as ‘that touchy-feely-stuff’) and you have individual farming operations reporting much needed decreases in staff turnover. 

Rebecca and Brent Miller: Kellogg Scholars making changes. 

At the heart of what Rebecca and Brent Miller do lies a simple idea, if you work on yourself before you work on your team, good things will follow.  

Rebecca has just won ‘Emerging Leader’ at the 2021 Westpac Champion Business Awards. It’s an award that recognises performance across all industries, not just the primary. The award blurb states, ‘recognising a leader who is ambitious in outlook and vision, one who embraces innovation, shows resilience, and who inspires and invests in others.’ All good things, so it’s worth taking a closer look for ideas worth sharing. 

“What we stand for, our values, our negotiables, and non-negotiables, are all important for us, our team, and our farm. Everything comes down to knowing our strengths, weaknesses, and how we’re likely to contribute within a collaborative framework.” 

The school of hard knocks. 

Fifteen years ago, sharemilkers Rebecca, Brent, and their young children, were at a crossroads. It’s a familiar dairying family story, 2:30am to 7:30pm, 28 days on, two days off, moving between farming positions constantly and far too many tricky experiences with farm owners – their employers. They were on the brink of breakdown. All bets were on leaving farming forever.  

“We thought something had to give. But then you realise all your skills are in dairying. It was all we knew. So, we decided to stay and really reflect on what it was we needed from our next employer.”  

“We researched farm owners who supported, coached, and mentored their staff. We knew that if we were to stay in dairying and grow, we had to find the right environment for that to happen. Sadly, at the time, they weren’t easy to find – but eventually we did.” 

“We’d put business first at all costs in the past and that approach wasn’t working for us. We now knew it had to be family first.”  

Building the trust.

The Millers found an employer who opened their books, allowing them to benchmark against over a dozen farms in the owner’s network. The power of knowing ‘the numbers’ meant better decisions could be made, and efficiencies found by gently applying the right pressure at the right time. This sharing quickly built trust between themselves and the owners.  

“Passing that on and taking care of our team, seeing them grow and succeed, became a priority for us too. We have learned that as leaders of a team, the environment we provide on the farm, the behaviour, the way we share, interact, the words we use, the decisions made, and by who, are just a few of the factors in a high trust, high-performing and connected team.”  

The Millers strongly believe in the idea of sharing what they can to help others improve their on-farm methods and culture too.  

“MilkIQ is a platform for achieving that. It’s fuelled by a passion for people and driven by a desire to help them succeed.”  

With MilkIQ the Millers have just gone out and said ‘hey, this is who we are.’ “It’s a wellbeing tool, hopefully demonstrating trust in practise.” 

Hamish Murray Bluff Station Nuffield

Hamish Murray: A Nuffielder making changes. 

In a Farmstrong article from earlier this year, Nuffield Scholar and high-country sheep and beef farmer, Hamish Murray, also acknowledged the importance of his own journey. He spent a year on his Nuffield scholarship studying businesses with high-performing team cultures, including time in Silicon Valley, and in Christchurch with the Crusaders Rugby Team. He observed their continued focus on ‘soft skills,’ and shared values. 

“Soft skills are things like the way you communicate, make decisions, reflect and feedback. If you understand each other [other’s styles], you can combine to make good decisions.” 

“We’ve also done an exercise with our team to agree on what values will drive the decisions in our business. It’s empowering everyone to move forward, and it allows me to stand back and let the others lead.” 

The results speak for themselves.

Hamish is confident this approach is paying off. One good indicator has been a reduced staff turnover. Hamish acknowledges how important it is to create an environment that allows others to flourish and one that attracts and keeps great people. A big part of that he says, is letting your ego go, getting out of people’s way and asking the questions that help others do an excellent job. To do that he says, you have to work on yourself first. 

“Sometimes it’s not until you get to breaking point that your own learning and reflection kicks in. The journey for me started at a real low, but now I look back and think I’m incredibly lucky to have had that experience.”  

Hamish is referring to the stresses created by the Marlborough and Canterbury drought of 2014/15.  

“Trying to keep everyone going when you had no control over anything was so draining … we ended up with stock on fourteen different properties. The support I’ve had from my family and my team, the groundwork we’ve done together has really given me the confidence to keep learning and growing our business.” 

It starts in your own back paddock. 

Rebecca, Brent, and Hamish have shown that one small, first step toward keeping people in primary sector, in a ‘start in your own backyard kind of way’ has to be toward yourself, then to your own ‘FarmilyTM,’ your rural community, and beyond to industry. Rebecca adds, “What we can control first is our own behaviour. When our behaviours are good, we allow others to be the same and we start creating that change.” 

Rebecca Miller did the Kellogg Rural leadership Programme in 2018. Her study topic was: Is there a need for an information platform to collaborate primary sector events? 

Brent Miller, Rebecca’s husband, did the Kellogg Programme in 2020. His study topic was: What is the true cost of transience to the New Zealand dairy industry? 

Hamish Murray is a 2019 Nuffield Scholar. Hamish’s research was Future farm workplaces. It investigated the work environment needed to attract and retain people in the primary sector.

 

Rural Leaders and Thriving Southland collaborate.

Workshops in Southland, collaboration between NZ RUral Leaders, Thriving Soutland and Lincoln University

Thriving Southland, in collaboration with the New Zealand Rural Leadership Trust and Lincoln University, recently ran two successful workshops, held over four days. The workshops sought to strengthen rural leadership capability in the region and inspire catchment leaders and their teams to work on problems and deliver outcomes for a thriving Southland.

Think to Thrive: Strategy

The first Strategy Workshop, ‘Think to Thrive,’ was held in Winton on the 1st and 2nd of December. It was designed to form a pathway between today’s Southland and where it might be tomorrow. 

Trust to Thrive: Leadership

The second workshop ‘Trust to Thrive’ was held in Invercargill. With a focus on leadership, it was designed to build on the outcomes of workshop one. It drew on the facilitators’ skills in delivering world-leading military intent-based team building frameworks, and helping leaders learn to empower their teams to work and win together.

The facilitators

The workshops were co-facilitated by Chris Parsons, MNZM, DSD, Rural Leaders CEO, Professor Hamish Gow, Lincoln University, Phil Morrison ONZM, Freelance Consultant and Kellogg Programme Facilitator, and Rob Hoult DSD, a Leadership Development Specialist. 

The participants

Each workshop was attended by about twenty farmers, catchment co-ordinators, stakeholders, and local and regional government leaders. Introduced to a range of tools, models, and frameworks, attendees then took a deep dive into a session of insights work. 

The groups generated two hundred key insights, from which they produced three hundred ideas. These ideas were crafted into four game plans the attending leaders could share with their catchments, the Thriving Southland Team and Board. 

When asked how the workshops were for attendees, three strong feedback themes emerged: empowering, big picture, and thought provoking. Many also felt that they had a new platform for influencing change. 

Lynsey Stratford, 2021 Nuffield Scholar and attendee, posted on LinkedIn:

“This was a great opportunity to learn some new skills and identify opportunities for the region alongside other food and fibre producers and stakeholders.” 

Another attendee stated, “We left armed with the models, tools, and insights we need to build capability with our teams.”  

If you’d like to get hold of the workshop summaries, please email either Hamish Gow or Chris Parsons, Hamish.Gow@lincoln.ac.nz or Chrisparsons@ruralleaders.co.nz 

Inviting expressions of interest in a Board Trustee role.

Inviting expressions of interest in a Board Trustee role.

The NZRLT is currently seeking expressions of interest from Nuffield Alumni in a Board Trustee role, beginning January 2022.  

Former Chair and incumbent Trustee, Andrew Watters is due to step down creating a rare opportunity to be involved in primary sector, education, and leadership governance.   
 
As part of a forward-thinking group of industry leaders, you will be supporting the NZRLT and its vision to grow world-class leaders for our country.    
 
This is a voluntary position and encompasses a four-year term. The role requires a time commitment of five board meetings annually, and three full days for the Nuffield Scholarship interview, selection process and awards.  

If you would like to express your interest in this opportunity to give back to rural New Zealand and contribute to building our country’s leadership capability, please send your CV and cover letter to Chris Parsons, NZRLT CEO, at chrisparsons@ruralleaders.co.nz 

Or, if you would like a confidential discussion, please call either Chris Parsons on 021 779 272, or NZRLT Chair, Kate Scott on 027 495 7486.  

Expressions of interest close Friday 26th November 2021. 

The new Trustee will be appointed prior to Christmas, and in time for the first board meeting in late January 2022.  

Mel Poulton: Insights from a Special Agricultural Trade Envoy.

Mel Poulton

Mel Poulton: Insights from a Special Agricultural Trade Envoy.

2014 Nuffield Scholar Mel Poulton is someone with a unique perspective. Well, two really. As both a food producing farmer and New Zealand’s Special Agricultural Trade Envoy, we asked Mel to share her perspectives on trade, Nuffield, Brexit, and an industry grappling with significant global challenges.

Question: What do you do in your various roles?

Mel Poulton: In and on my farm business, I’m on both sides of the farm gate. I do anything from stockwork to bulldozing, to making all the decisions required to run a business. 

In the Special Agricultural Trade Envoy (SATE) role, following my appointment, border closures and a vastly different global operating context, have meant changing how the role is delivered. It’s a two-pronged approach with an international and a domestic focus, mixed with face to face and virtual engagement.  

I’ve been more purposeful working with the world here in NZ, by way of direct engagement with the International Diplomatic Corps here (they are the eyes, ears, and influencers of their nations in NZ). This engagement includes taking Ambassadors on x-sector farm tours, hosting Diplomatic Corps meetings, and meeting with them one-to-one, or with industry groups. I am also working internationally on virtual platforms, speaking on panels, webinars, or virtual meetings with farmers, and private and public sector organisations.  

Covid has provided opportunity for me to invest more time and effort with NZ sectors (all food and fibre – except Forestry and Fisheries). My background is the sheep and beef sector, but I put a high priority on building a greater understanding of the other sectors I represent as well. I use these insights when engaging with each of the sectors, government, and the world.  

Helping NZ food and fibre producers broaden their understanding of the global and domestic context is a priority too. Both behind and beyond our farm gates.  

Q: What changes have you seen since being in your SATE role?

MP: Quite a few things.

Trade negotiations. 
Trade negotiations, particularly the New Zealand-UK Free Trade Agreement (FTA), have been the fastest progressed trade negotiations in New Zealand history to get to Agreement in Principle – so I’ve been told. Much of this negotiation has been done virtually, also a first. This will change the way trade negotiations occur in the future. A lot less travel overall.

Farm subsidies. 
Direct and indirect farm subsidies in large economies, such as the USA, have increased exponentially. People may argue they have already exceeded agreed WTO thresholds.

Growing distrust. 
There’s a growing distrust of governments in the democratic world. Governments need to work on their social licence to operate. Social licence is not just a thing for food producers.

Supply chain vulnerability. 
Just In Time (JIT) delivery has been exposed for its supply chain vulnerability in this global pandemic. Economies and businesses will now be building more capacity in their value chain system. This will mean a more conservative approach to exports and imports, to withstand the volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA) in the world of trade, market access and freight.

Nevertheless, nothing beats high trust and long-term government to government, business to business, and people to people relationships across the world. New Zealand has optimised these relationships throughout the pandemic to utilise market diversity for navigating trade, market, and supply chain disruption.

For example, Covid19 related trade agreements to secure medical imports and food exports. As well as digital certification for export products, through to relationships that our major exporters have with freight companies, importers, and international customers. The last 18 months haven’t been easy, but these strong relationships, and diversity of markets, have shown their worth to New Zealand.

Food security. 
Economies are moving from thinking about food security, to actively putting mechanisms in place to secure their food supply in a pandemic disrupted system, e.g., green lanes in Europe. There’s also a slow nuanced shift from food security to nutritional security taking place.

Regulatory pressure. 
Farmers and food producers in New Zealand and around the world are wrestling with the multi-layered challenges of regulatory pressure (particularly on the environmental and climate change fronts), as well as market volatility, and Covid 19 induced uncertainty. This is increasing farm input costs and diminishing the tools available for farmers to use to produce food.

As an example, farmers in Europe have real fears about their ability to produce the volume of food required to stay viable and maintain food security. The new farm to fork strategy in the EU is deliberately shifting organic food production up to 25%, with rules to reduce synthetic fertiliser by 50%. Glyphosate use is under threat too. In some places farmers can’t use it (I note in New Zealand, the EPA is currently undertaking a review of Glyphosate use). There’s major transformational change happening in Europe.

The rush of multi-layered change gives a sense of exponential pressure. Farmers all over the world are feeling exasperated, frustrated, misunderstood and under siege. All the same, if there is anywhere in the world I would rather be farming right now, it is here in New Zealand.

We’ve navigated major challenges in the past, and when farmers look at the change they’ve implemented on their farms over the course of their careers, or in the intergenerational businesses they are running, we can take confidence in the fact we are already change agents.

A uniquely positioned New Zealand. 
From a New Zealand food producer’s perspective, farmers here are uniquely positioned. Without subsidies, we aren’t dancing to someone else’s tune in quite the same ways as farmers receiving subsidies elsewhere. There are two sides to this. On one hand we’re not being bailed out at the next threat, but we also get to take full responsibility to master the destiny of our businesses. So, we have an ability to create workable solutions in a way that keeps our businesses competitive globally.

With an innovative, integrated systems approach, we can create solutions to challenges like reducing our global warming impact, improving native biodiversity and water quality, while producing high quality, safe, nutritious food – delivered with integrity.

In New Zealand we have an industry ecosystem focussed on helping farmers create and implement solutions. Our research centres and academic institutions, both provide science and knowledge, and help support farmers crack real challenges. There are the easily accessible service providers, and the folk in Government ministries – who are in the teams working hard on trade negotiation to ensure the best possible outcomes for access to markets, and on removal of tariffs and non-tariff barriers to create a level playing field for New Zealand. Let’s keep it that way.

This ecosystem enabling success is our major competitive advantage in the world. We’ve really got to leverage this and remember we’re all on the same team.

We must not be paralysed by fear, but instead celebrate what we’ve already achieved throughout our farming careers and take confidence that we can use our whole systems thinking to improve what we do for our natural resources, our people, businesses, and our nation.

Q: What links between International Trade and International Policy have you seen, with direct and indirect implications behind your farm gate?

MP: Let’s summarise how it works first. There are recognised global challenges. Then international forums are established to address these challenges, leading to international commitments made by member states (different nations).  

Examples of this include United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and the Paris Accord on Climate Change. Some international commitments are legally non-binding. But where it applies to the WTO (World Trade Organisation) they are often legally binding.  

Once those international commitments are made, each economy, member state, or nation must determine its own policy and regulation to deliver on its commitments. That gets shaped up (with some consultation in the process) and is rolled out by the government of the day, and folks like us everyday people have to make it work on the ground. The Government then reports back to those international forums, or institutions, on what our progress has been against the commitments the Government made. COP26 is an example of this. 

Given New Zealand’s economy is so internationally exposed and dependent, we need to be at the international table to maintain influence.  

But to have influence we need to have integrity and demonstrate action. So, these international commitments have been drivers for shaping NZ Government policy on Sustainability and Climate Change. Examples here are the New Zealand freshwater regulations and climate change targets. Both resulted in changes on my farm, and on farms all over New Zealand, which is increasing costs and could reduce revenue for some.  

If we do it right, there could also be opportunity to reduce costs and increase profitability. It will be different for every business. The bottom line is that financially there’ll be change, so we need to reconfigure the financials for a new shape to our businesses. Easier for some than others, and not all will be the same. 

The environmental, social, and economic outcomes are significant across NZ, and underestimated. In some cases, we might secure a market premium for this work, though there is no guarantee what we’re doing delivers a premium to food producers in New Zealand for all products in all markets. I have more confidence this work will enable us to obtain and maintain market access to customers.  

This is where the work of our trade negotiators, ensuring a level playing field in market, is so critical for ensuring the changes we’re making here in NZ don’t make us uncompetitive on the international market. I’ve seen their tireless, relentless work, day, and night, to get the best possible outcomes for New Zealand. Many of these negotiators are the hidden superstars of our food and fibre ecosystem.  

What is going on in New Zealand around environment and climate change is often a focus of interest from others in my international engagements. I talk about what these regulations and targets mean for me, and what I am investing in to address the challenges in my farm business, alongside promoting what other farmers from the different sectors are doing in New Zealand. I also give a clear message that much of this cannot be done quickly when taking a whole systems approach. Effective change takes time. Farmers the world over get this.

Q: How do you think Brexit will play out for New Zealand trade? The obvious and not so obvious.

MP: The choice of the UK people and UK parliament to pursue Brexit is forging transformational change for the UK food and fibre sector. The transition period will take 15 to 20, even 30 years to find a new equilibrium. Like the 30 years it took New Zealand to find equilibrium when agriculture subsidies were removed here.  
 
This change requires a culture shift in thinking about UK farm business structures, their subsidy system, domestic policies, and rebalancing their trade and export portfolio beyond the common market, to a global market. Add major geostrategic inflection points in trade and security, affecting us all, and you have a UK trying to position itself as a global strategic leader.

Its focus in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly regarding the FTA’s it is currently negotiating with Australia and New Zealand, along with its formal request to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), all highlight the trade and security opportunities and challenges it perceives.  
 
So, building more structure into the relationships of allies like New Zealand and Australia by way of FTA’s is an important part of their process to find their new place in the world. This is providing new trade opportunities for New Zealand, subject to the NZ-UK FTA and their accession to the CPTPP. 
 
In the future it may create more competition in our export markets too. It will also create opportunities for more collaboration on the global stage, especially where we align with the values and perspectives that matter to both economies.

Q: What does New Zealand need to do more, and less of, now and in the future?

MP: Because our food and fibre sector is orientated to international markets, we need to continue to pursue being the best we can be. This means achieving optimal standards, positioning ourselves to have the best integrity, facts, processes, and story for all the concerns that governments, markets, customers, and consumers may direct at us.  

Whether these be from the position of protectionism or not, we still have to give ourselves the best chance of capturing opportunity. So, concerns about animal welfare, food safety, or environmental stewardship, e.g., water, soil, biodiversity, chemical and fertiliser usage, climate change, labour, the list goes on. These are the things we need to keep improving to position ourselves to open as many doors as possible, and to keep flexibility, adaptability, agility, and economic viability open to us.  

We have already demonstrated plasticity through this pandemic, and we need to fully embrace a plasticity approach in our lives, our businesses, and how we engage with the world.  

We need to be able to maintain our essence and values, while changing and reshaping the way we live, do business, trade, and collaborate with others, as we all grapple with significant global challenges.     

Q: How has doing a Nuffield Scholarship helped you?

MP:   The Nuffield Scholarship has been an important part of my personal and professional development. It’s been a stepping-stone for doing what I do now, on and off farm. The international networks, the doors of opportunity opened, the domestic and international insights as well as the ‘aha’ moments. These all contribute to my thinking, conversations, and ideas on the farm and in the world of trade.  

That said, and without taking away from Nuffield, the older I get and the more I learn, it seems the more questions I have and the more I need to learn. 
I’d like to encourage all readers to keep that hunger to learn, take some confidence from the change we’ve already made on our farms, in our businesses and our whole industry with our systems thinking.  

Let’s keep doing what we do best – producing top quality food and fibre to the best of our abilities.  

Optimising all we do with high standards, care and integrity for our environment and natural resources, our people, communities, and for the economic viability of our businesses and nation. 

Balanced with humility, we need to be able to hold our heads high and have pride in who we are and what we do. Keep being the best you can be. 

Read Mel Poulton 2014 Nuffield report “Capturing value.”