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. 

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.  

2022 Nuffield New Zealand Farming Scholarships awarded.

2022 Nuffield Farming Scholars

2022 Nuffield New Zealand Farming Scholarships awarded.

Three emerging food and fibre sector leaders have been awarded 2022 Nuffield New Zealand Farming Scholarships. Each has received a personal letter of congratulations from Hon. Damien O’Connor, Minister of Agriculture, Minister for Trade and Export Growth, Biosecurity, Land Information, and Rural Communities.

The New Zealand Rural Leadership Trust (NZRLT) is proud to announce the 2022 Nuffield New Zealand Farming Scholarship recipients. The Scholars are:

Parmindar Singh, a Waikato based Dairy Farm Manager, Company Director, and a recent master’s graduate. 

Anthony Taueki, a horticulturalist from the Hawke’s Bay, leads horticulture courses at Fruition, New Zealand Apples and Pears, Tatau Tatau o te Wairoa, and many more.

Lucie Douma, leads a new team at the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) looking at disruptions to domestic food and fibre supply chains, and primary sector COVID recovery.

Chris Parsons, NZRLT CEO said, “This group comes from the most diverse range of backgrounds we have seen in recent times. Each Scholar brings talent, passion, perspective, and a track record of performance. Their job now is to find insights and foresight to benefit our sector.

“We wish to acknowledge all those who applied. It is safe to say, there is some real talent in our regions. Selecting three Scholars this year has given our Trustees and the Industry National Advisory Committee the opportunity to fund the start-up of an exciting new programme, the Value Chain Innovation Programme. The intention will be to return to selecting five Scholars again next year”, said Parsons.

Covid 19 restrictions mean this year’s scholarship recipients’ formal awards ceremony at Parliament, will be delayed until February 2022, when Minister O’Connor will award the scholarships in person.

2022 Scholars will follow last year’s travel approach, contingent on the local and global pandemic travel situation. This lets scholars defer the international travel component of the programme until border restrictions permit.

Kate Scott, NZRLT Chair, said, “As part of their Nuffield journey, the three 2022 Scholars will also join the Value Chain Innovation Programme to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities in front of our sector, before they venture abroad.

“The Scholarship will offer new opportunities and experiences through an immersive programme and will help to shape future world-class leaders for the New Zealand food and fibre sector” said Scott.

Their research topics are likely to cover a range of our biggest food and fibre challenges including, building resilience in our value chains, data interoperability, emerging market opportunities for trade in dairy, and finding sustainable pathways into the primary industries for rangatahi.

The three new Scholars will join more than 170 Nuffield Alumni awarded scholarships over the last 71 years.

Meet our 2022 Nuffield New Zealand Farming Scholars.

Lucie Douma 

Agri-professional, Livestock

Lucie is of Dutch descent and is based in Wellington. She currently leads a new team at the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) looking at disruptions to the domestic food and fibre supply chains, and primary sector COVID recovery.

Lucie has a Master of Science degree from Oxford University, where she studied human-wildlife conflict. Her initial research topics of interest are data interoperability or building resilience within the value chain.

Lisa Rogers, NZRLT Programme Manager, commented, “Lucie is a great example of the policy talent we have coming through in our sector. She is greatly invested in the future of agriculture in New Zealand.”

Parmindar Singh

Dairy farmer, Company Director

Parmindar is a fourth generation New Zealand dairy farmer of Indian descent. A company director and independent consultant, she is near completion of her master’s degree at Waikato University.

Parmindar’s research topic of interest is emerging market opportunities for trade in dairy. On her proposed research Parmindar says, “As a proud, intergenerational dairy farmer, my goal is to identify the shift that is occurring globally and identify future trade and market opportunities for New Zealand farmers.”

On Parmindar’s selection Lisa Rogers noted, “Parmindar is bright and fearless, with a lifetime of community involvement and entrepreneurship in the Agri-sector. Nuffield is lucky to have her as a Scholar.”

Anthony Taueki

Anthony Taueki

Horticulturalist, Kaiako,
Hawke’s Bay

A horticulturalist from the Hawke’s Bay, Anthony is of Ngati Kahungunu descent. He leads, organises, and conducts horticulture courses and training programmes with Fruition Horticulture, New Zealand Apples and Pears, Tatau Tatau o te Wairoa, Ministry of Social Development and Ngati Kahungunu Inc.

Passionate about helping rangatahi find sustainable pathways into primary industries, Anthony’s research topic of interest is growing opportunities from the roots up.

Of Anthony’s selection Lisa Rogers said, “Anthony is a natural leader who is highly collaborative. He has integrity, passion, and a strong desire to influence in New Zealand’s Agri-sector.”

“I look forward to working with all three of our Scholars over their scholarship journey”, Lisa Rogers said.

About Nuffield New Zealand Farming Scholarships.

Nuffield Farming Scholarships have been offered to farmers, growers, fishers, and foresters since 1950. The scholarships were established in the United Kingdom by Lord Nuffield for farmers to explore best agricultural practice and facilitate innovation through sharing knowledge and ideas in food and fibre globally.

The scholarships are among the most respected awards in the food and fibre sector. They offer a life-changing opportunity for travel, study of the latest developments and an introduction to leaders and decision-makers around the world, who would not normally be accessible.

With a network of more than 1,600 alumni internationally, the programme continues to build New Zealand’s rural leadership capability and the food and fibre sector’s profile internationally.

For more information about Nuffield go to https://ruralleaders.co.nz/nuffield

For more information, please contact:

Matt Hampton
Marketing and Communications Manager
Rural Leaders
Ph. 0274 171 065
E: matthampton@ruralleaders.co.nz

Three Kelloggers among Zanda McDonald Awards Finalists.

Adapted from an article on the Zanda McDonald Award website. 

Judges of the Zanda McDonald Award, will crown not one but two winners for 2022 – one from each side of the Tasman. 

Now in its eighth year, the prestigious award recognises young future leaders working in agriculture and provides an impressive prize package centred around a tailored trans-Tasman mentoring programme. The eight talented finalists – include four from New Zealand, three of whom are graduates of the Kellogg Rural Leadership Programme.  

All finalists have been selected for their passion for the industry, strong leadership skills, and the contributions they’re making in the primary sector. 

The four New Zealand finalists are 2019 Kellogg Scholar Katie Vickers, Head of Sustainability and Land Use for Farmlands;  

2017 Kellogg Scholar Olivia Weatherburn, National Extension Programme Manager for Beef + Lamb New Zealand;  

2017 Kellogg Scholar Rhys Roberts, CEO of market garden and farm operation Align Farms;  

and Adam Thompson, director of Restore Native Plant Nursery, beef farmer and mortgage broker. 

Richard Rains, award chairman says whilst Covid-19 travel restrictions drove the change to two awards, it has also created an exciting opportunity. With the increase to eight finalists and two winners, the award can have a positive impact on more future leaders in Australia and New Zealand.  

“We’re thrilled to be able to invest in the future of all eight finalists, and our two winners, and help with their future career and personal development. Our judges have again been overwhelmed with the level of talent and capabilities of this years’ candidates,” said Rains. 

The Australian and the New Zealand winner will each pick up an impressive personal development package, including a personalised mentoring trip in Australia and New Zealand (when travel allows), up to $10,000 worth of tailored education or training, media coaching, and other mentoring and industry opportunities. 

Winners will be announced in November 2021. 


A rural connection

By Royna Ngahuia Fifield-Hakaraia (Ngāti Rangatahi, Ngāti Whititama)  

You might have noticed a new magazine on the stands lately. Shepherdess is a publication that offers something no other magazine does: an unapologetic celebration of women in rural Aotearoa. Published by Kristy McGregor – a twenty-nine-year-old Australian based on a dairy and beef farm at Manakau, Horowhenua – the quarterly magazine unearths stories on all matters of social and cultural life in the regions. 

Humble beginnings. 

Kristy is the first person to admit that Shepherdess has come from humble beginnings. Initially, there were a series of conversations with Claire Dunne, the founder of Australian magazine Graziher, then an Instagram page and a blog, and finally the first edition was in stores in March, 2020 – a few weeks before New Zealand’s first Covid-19 lockdown.  

“I’d known Claire for a few years and in our conversations we both recognised that there was a real opportunity for a nationwide publication that spoke to rural life,” Kristy explains. “But when Claire said to me, “How about we start the magazine?” in early 2019, I had just had my first baby and was about to dive back into my resource management job in Wellington – it definitely wasn’t the best timing. Deep down, though, I knew there was never going to be a perfect time and I really believed in what the magazine could provide for rural women, so I decided to give it a go.” 

Beating the odds. 

The journey, of course, hasn’t been without its bumps. Less than 40 per cent of start-up businesses in New Zealand survive past the first two years and Kristy faced her first big hurdle early on. She found herself at the helm of Shepherdess with no experience in publishing or running a business.

“As we were preparing the first edition and pulling everything together for the March launch, Claire’s circumstances changed and she needed to focus her energy in Australia,” says Kristy. “Suddenly, I went from working with someone who has years of publishing experience to being on my own, but I just knew that I had to give it a try.  

“I had been living in New Zealand for nearly six years and I felt that I had a bit of an understanding about the experiences and perspectives of rural New Zealand, especially with living and working on my partner’s family farm in the Horowhenua.

“Really I stumbled into the role of publisher – what I really wanted to do was connect people and I could see that the magazine could be a tool to do that.” 

Growing up in suburban Sydney.

Kristy grew up on a quarter acre block in Camden, a small, suburban area on the outskirts of Sydney. But through her father’s work as an agricultural teacher as well as invitations by extended family to go and stay at their farms, Kristy’s childhood was filled with experiences of rural life. “As a kid, I would go and stay with family friends in Jamberoo, Parkes and Canowindra,” says Kristy.

“I have memories of watching a newborn calf plop onto the ground, or visiting the local butcher where, like in many small towns, they run a tab under the family name. Some days I would sit on the enclosed veranda in the baking sun for hours, trying to avoid the flies. It was this sense of simplicity and familiarity that I really loved growing up, and as I got older these were the things I found myself gravitating towards.” 

Home in Horowhenua.

Kristy moved to New Zealand in 2014, after meeting Michael Keeling, a Kiwi who was working in western Queensland before taking over the family farm back home in Horowhenua. “My first year here was really hard,” Kristy explains.

“I was away from my friends and family and everything I had built over in Australia, and my introduction to dairy farming was a partner who worked fifteen-hour days, ate and slept and then did it all again the next day. There was very little social life, and there was a lot I had to learn. I brought home a pet lamb that first year and I quickly learnt that you don’t want to add anything to your plate during calving if you can help it!” 

Despite all the challenges, Kristy is still here and still based in the Horowhenua with Michael and their two children, Hartley, three, and Tully, one. And eighteen months after its debut Shepherdess is currently curating its eighth edition, is stocked in 400 stores nationwide and has built an online community of 15,000 and growing, with an estimated readership of 18,000 per edition.

Women from across the country write to Kristy, explaining how they had always hoped a magazine like Shepherdess would appear at their local bookstore and how much it means to them to see women like themselves reflected back in its pages and stories.  

Collaboration, connection and community.

“Collaboration is what has propelled the magazine. I remember in the few months before our first edition, sitting down with Claire Dunne and she had a whiteboard and a pen and was giving me a publishing 101 lesson because I really had no idea. I even roped in my mother-in-law to bake the cakes for the recipes in the first edition! But we were lucky to have organisations like Beef + Lamb New Zealand and Farmlands, who – bravely – endorsed us from the start. And a great team of talented women have come on board so that the magazine could become a reality.” 

Shepherdess fills a large gap in Aotearoa’s media landscape: telling stories that matter to women living in rural and regional areas and providing a space for underrepresented women’s stories to be shared; with a concerted focus on Te Reo and the experiences of wāhine Māori.  

“For me, it’s just a gut feeling that I have that I couldn’t make a publication in 2021 and not honour Te Ao Maori.

Throughout this journey, I have learnt so much about our communities and businesses. Our first editions might not have been perfect, but we strive to be better and better every time, and as a team we are continually improving and refining.

Running a business is often like a jigsaw, fitting people’s strengths to their roles and figuring out how we best work together so that we can produce the best possible experience for our readers.” 

It was in talking to other rural women that Kristy realised there was a real need for a magazine that can hold space for women who might be isolated, either socially or geographically. That other women wanted a publication that spoke to their fears and struggles as well as their sense of pride and belonging for the many wonderful things happening in rural Aotearoa.  

Shepherdess connects its readers to rural and regional Aotearoa from the comfort of their couch, kitchen table or out in the paddock if need be.

“We showcase women from all parts of the country and all areas of industry who are facing the same things as everyone else and who are trying to figure out how best to do it all.

“I think reading these stories, that are all our stories, fills us up and creates a special feeling of community. I’m really frank about knowing what it’s like for most mums out there – my office is right here on the farm with my kids underfoot, the palettes of magazines on the back of a truck, roll in right after the tanker.

“I’m doing Zoom calls while breastfeeding or checking copy and looking at design mock-ups late at night after the kids are in bed. But its also extremely rewarding to be getting these amazing stories out there. It’s exciting to have found something that I really resonate with, that feels so closely connected to me.”  

To subscribe, purchase the latest edition of Shepherdess or read more stories that have featured in the magazine, head to the website www.shepherdess.co.nz or into any one of their many stockists across the country, a list of which can also be found on the website. Use the code RURALLEADERS on the website at check out for an extra edition free with any annual subscription purchased.

Good value in changing times.

If you look very hard for the Pandemic’s silver linings, you’ll find a few.  

There’s a growing appreciation for the rural sector. According to UMR data from last year, support for dairy and sheep and beef farmers has risen 9%. The reason cited was the heavy government spending on the Covid-19 relief package, leaving a public asking, “How’re we going to pay for all this?”  

Also cutting through the gloom are the countless innovations taking place as the effort to adjust continues. And like many organisations cornered by the pandemic’s refusal to negotiate, the New Zealand Rural Leadership Trust has had to adapt on the move. One example was when Nuffield Scholars were affected by the close of international travel. An innovation in the form of a New Zealand based experience emerged.  

The Global Tour of New Zealand.

The ‘Global Tour of New Zealand’, as it was quickly named by last years’ Nuffield Scholars, gave a unique view of the country’s food and fibre sector value chains. This year, the programme has been made richer still. The Value Chain Innovation Programme will begin in January 2022 and  
is now open to a larger number of people in the primary sector. 

One of the programme’s two facilitators, Sir Graeme Harrison Professorial Chair of Global Value Chains and Trade Hamish Gow says, “The Value Chain Innovation Programme provides the opportunity to lift the lid on some of New Zealand’s leading value chains, exploring their working components and analysing how they create value.”  

Building the value.

Much work has gone into building a cache of exciting and varied case studies across dairy, arable and horticulture value chains to name a few. Participants learn straight from the source. They gain unique insights into food and fibre innovation, in both domestic and international markets.

Businesses don’t always get the opportunity to explore innovation across other industries. The new programme gives a wide view of established and novel value chains. Participants compare and transpose thinking at a time when the primary industries are going through the biggest period of transformational change since the 1980’s.  

If you’re in food and fibre, now is the time to be gaining a pan-sector view of as many successful business models as possible,” says Prof. Gow. “Increasingly the most successful value chains are those with business models that are closely aligned to their customers, use protected IP, and provide innovative shared value structures.” 

The programme runs over five weeks, two of these are spent on the road. The remaining time is spent on an individual research report. “It will be a busy few weeks, with the time commitment being 100 hours on field trips, guest lectures and networking, online lectures and discussions, tutorials, and another 50 hours self-directed learning,” said Prof. Gow. 

The programme delivery team.

New Zealand Rural Leadership Trust CEO Chris Parsons remarked, “As a global leader and thinker in value chain design, innovation and entrepreneurship, Professor Gow is uniquely qualified to impart deeper strategic learning and insight into 2022’s programme.”  

The depth on the team is bolstered further with Leadership and Strategic Development Consultant, Phil Morrison, ONZM. “We are also fortunate to have Phil onboard. He brings a different leadership perspective, drawing on a career in military command, and in the delivery of innovation, strategic and leadership training as a consultant. We couldn’t hope for a stronger team.”  

Once completed, the programme will give participants the competencies, confidence, and networks to influence change and lead transformation at an enterprise level and throughout regional New Zealand.  

Chris Parsons says, “We hope this programme will lead to positive larger scale change as our graduates continue to grow and contribute to a fast-changing food and fibre sector.”

Rural Leaders are taking applications until 28 November 2021, with a scheduled start date of 16 January 2022.  

Applications can be made at ruralleaders.co.nz/value-chain/.

A Royal Connection: The Commonwealth Study Conference Global Leaders Series.

The Commonwealth Study Conference Global Leaders Series (CSC) took place online recently. This was the first occasion Rural Leaders had been invited to attend. CSC Leader and Patron, HRH The Princess Royal also attended the event for the formal launch of this quarterly programme.

The series is designed to take on the big subjects, overlaying leadership, and hearing from key leaders around the Commonwealth.

Hosted by Coutts & Co. CEO, and Deputy Chair CSC UK, Peter Flavel, and Sir Alan Parker, Chair CSC UK, 28 countries were represented, over 200 people were online. Many insightful questions were asked, including: mental health, COVID-19, loss, EV’s, sustainability and that it’s ‘OK not to be OK’.

A range of topics were covered by speakers including Bernard Looney CEO, BP, who was very open about the challenges and opportunities for BP and the environment. As CEO, he has set BP on an extremely ambitious course of transformation as an energy company.

The meeting was held in tandem with other like-minded organisations such as RASC, NZ Rural Leaders, Nuffield Scholars, and the CSC UK delivery partners ‘The Association of Commonwealth Universities.’

HRH The Princess Royal made several helpful observations on societal expectations and then on blue and green hydrogen.

The event put Nuffield and NZ Rural Leaders in the minds of some significantly senior international leaders.

Of the event, Peter Flavel said that this was a “Significant point in CSC history – delighted to be partnering with CSC Global Alumni.”

A special thanks to those who were able to attend. And for those who missed it, we will endeavour to share the recording once the Palace approves it.

Mandi McLeod on succession, animal welfare and mental health.

We caught up with 2009 Nuffield Scholar Mandi McLeod, who was speaking to us from Pirongia, Waikato. Mandi is an agri-business consultant who specialises in farm animal welfare, on both sides of the supply chain.

Internationally certified in dairy cow auditing and trained as a Cow Signals Master, she uses her passion, knowledge and experience to create animal welfare audit programmes for her clients.

With a degree in agricultural science and a master’s degree in rural systems management, Mandi is also highly experienced in group facilitation and farm business management, transition and succession planning.

A start in succession planning. 

I grew up on a family dairy farm in Morrinsville, and we transitioned out of that through our own succession plan about five and a half years ago. We now have an urban ranch with a beef cattle herd. It keeps me grounded.

Twelve years ago, when I did my Nuffield Scholarship, there wasn’t much research out there on succession planning. Not just how the assets in a family farm business are transitioned, but also how values, knowledge and skills are transferred from one generation to the next. So, I looked at this for my Nuffield research paper. I was able to create my own business through what I learned. It became my focus for the following decade.

 At the time, succession planning was only found in an urban business context. Crazy when you consider that in our farming communities, we usually live and work on farm, so business is very close to home. In fact, it can be sitting right there at the kitchen table with you.

I’d like to think a lot of the work done in those years has now been picked up by other professionals. The fact there’s now a career for people in succession planning, and that farming families are getting more access to quality information and help. That’s really exciting to me.

What makes good succession planning?

The important thing is communication. Sounds obvious, but it is the most overlooked element.

How do we create the right environment for discussions? How do we ask the questions that matter? How do we really listen to the answers we get to those questions? It’s more critical now, than ever, because both the incoming and the outgoing generations have such different communication styles. It’s a recipe for problems if it isn’t handled well.

Once we resolve those differences, everything else can start to fall into place. It’s understanding the needs, wants, fears and expectations of both parties, and then saying, can we marry these up to some shared values?

If the family hasn’t got their values aligned, or if they’re not communicating well, then it doesn’t matter what solution you come up with on paper, it’s not going to work long term.

Sometimes the best resolution for both the family and the farm business is not having a succession within that family? It’s having another family come in. That can work very well too.

It’s more than a chat and a cuppa. But that’s a good start. 

People are often looking for a silver bullet. It can take a year, or it can take ten years to get everything set up. You can’t do it in 24 hours.

I think it’s going to continue to be an issue because we’re in a period where the pace of change in food and fibre is increasing exponentially – yet succession planning needs time. There’s a conflict there that can be tricky to navigate.

A quick guide to success with succession.

Now this is by no means a definitive guide, but it gives you some idea of what’s involved and roughly, in what order.

  1. What are your goals for the succession (and your retirement for example)?
  2. Ask, who needs to be involved?
  3. Agree on someone to facilitate. There are now professional facilitators out there.
  4. Gather key documents. Like the last few sets of accounts for starters.
  5. Keep lines of communication open between all parties.
  6. Build a clear picture of the 1, 5, 10 year transition path ahead.
  7. Share the emerging plan with all parties.
  8. Keep talking.

Chickens and eggs.

A lack of good succession planning can have a huge impact on animal welfare. It can be where the next generation have not wanted to farm. As a consequence, the current generation can hold on too long, beyond a point where they are physically or mentally capable. The animals suffer.

If we help the farmer, the animals will benefit as well. There’s a big circular picture there, where everything is interrelated. But if we can intervene at various stages, whether it’s through facilitating a transition, or introducing an innovative approach to handling cattle for example, we can improve mental health across the board and improve animal welfare. Or vice versa.

It’s a bit like the chicken and the egg. Is a farm animal welfare issue causing poor mental health, or is poor mental health leading to an animal welfare issue? One can lead into the other.

There’s been a lot of valuable work done highlighting the need for mental health support and services for farmers, which is fantastic. There’s also a group of people that support those farmers that are often also in need. Like vets and consultants to name a few. When we turn up on farm, and if there’s a serious animal welfare issue, we’re impacted by that.

I think the link between farm succession, mental health and animal welfare is an important one. To me it highlights just how interconnected we are to our land and our animals.

When we feel great about our farm and its future, everything else benefits.

Two Kelloggers are finalists for the Fonterra Woman of the Year Award

Belinda Price

Rebecca Miller

We’re very excited for two of our 2018 Kelloggers Belinda Price and Rebecca Miller (along with one other finalist) who were named this month as this year’s finalists for the Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year award.  Belinda who is a sharemilker based in Whanganui and Rebecca who is a Dairy Farmer from Ashburton are both in the running for the respected industry award managed by the Dairy Women’s Network.

Well done Belinda and Rebecca, and we wish you both well at the Award’s Ceremony on 8th April, when the recipient of the Award will be announced.

Read the full story here:

Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year finalists focus on supporting other dairy farmers

Developing Whanganui region’s agribusiness sector

From left to right: Colleen Sheldon, Whanganui & Partners, David Eade, 2021 Nuffield Scholar, Andrew Watters, NZ Rural Leaders Chair

Rural Leaders & Whanganui & Partners

developing Whanganui region’s agribusiness sector

NZ Rural Leaders and Whanganui & Partners entered into a multi-year agreement last year to offer scholarships to Whanganui residents who directly contribute to the regions agribusiness sector. To be eligible for a Scholarship, candidates must undertake either a Kellogg Rural Leadership Programme or Nuffield Farming Scholarship.

David Eade, 2021 Nuffield NZ Scholar was selected as the first recipient of a Scholarship.

Read more about our partnership with Whanganui & Partners, and about David Eade in this article on page 10 in the Farmers Weekly virtual newspaper: