Tuesday, 18 September 2012 16:48

New director shows youth and wisdom

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THE RISING average age of farmers creates succession problems not only for farms and orchards; it is also seen in the boardrooms of primary producer businesses.

That’s why Zespri’s newest director Nathan Flowerday is pleased an Agmardt scheme which helped him get elected to Zespri’s board will be extended to others. 

Flowerday was the successful candidate in 2011 for an associate board trustee position created by Agmardt on its own board to give young farmers or growers governance experience. He believes that experience gave Zespri voters the confidence in him to elect him in July this year to the Zespri board. 

As a result, he and Agmardt are urging other agribusiness organisations to pick up the idea of creating an associate board-membership position, or at least establish observer positions on their boards.

Now the youngest Zespri director, Flowerday (35) says the average age of New Zealand farmers was last year 58, and this year 59. “There’s not the refresh coming through; that is pretty well recognised at all levels, including positions at governance tables as well.” That’s one reason Agmardt decided to create the associate position won by Flowerday out of 69 applicants.  He has overseas banking experience and is managing director of two orchard companies, managing both day-to-day. 

Flowerday says the Agmardt position allowed him to sit on a board and participate fully in the meetings. “I didn’t have voting rights but it was still an active role and that allowed me to gain experience. I also did Institute of Directors governance training; Agmardt helped me through that weeklong training process.”

Flowerday says the scheme was so successful Agmardt has decided that once he finishes his 12-month tenure more candidates will get the same opportunity. 

He believes the fact that there were 69 applicants for the position shows “there’s a huge interest and desire for people to get on boards. But it’s almost like getting your first job… getting that experience under your belt.

“And we’re trying to encourage other agribusiness boards to think about whether they could create an associate position or at least an observer position.

“Agmardt sponsors Young Farmer of the Year and talking to other sponsors that sit on agribusiness boards about the issue has certainly opened their eyes. They are thinking about what they should be doing for their own businesses for succession planning on their boards as well.

“It is very difficult for people who are aspiring to be directors to get experience and or even observe. 

“I was also able to sit on another agribusiness board as an observer and even that was great, to see how another board went through its processes.

“I hope other young people will see that if you do put your hand up, try hard and take opportunities that come along, you can succeed into getting into governance positions.”

Flowerday admits it is not an easy time to join the Zespri board, as Psa continues to devastate the industry. “That was one of the main reasons for wanting to step up. I am a kiwifruit grower and dealing with Psa myself but I knew I could do more for the industry. The best way I thought I could help my fellow growers is by representing them more on the Zespri board.”

Flowerday says he came onto the board with “eyes wide open” over the challenges. “I’ve been well accepted by the rest of the board and it’s been rewarding already.”

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