A report on the state of New Zealand soils has expressed great concern about the disproportionate amount of high-quality land being used for urban development.
This follows a successful pilot during 2012.
Facilitated by the Agri-Women's Development Trust (AWDT), the programme covers three broad topics: governance, communications and decision-making, and leadership. Each topic is covered in a two-day module in Wellington.
Wairarapa farmer George Tatham was one of 12 farmers from across New Zealand involved in the pilot. Tatham, who has since become chair of the Eastern North Island farmer council, says the skills he picked up over the three modules have benefited his farm business, as well as his council work.
"While the programme gave me better skills around meetings and governance, it was equally good for my business, given we have four staff. The principles of communications and leadership are the same, whether it's two people or 100.
"The programme also taught me about dealing with people and reacting to the way different individuals operate. We're not all the same."
Tatham describes the payback on his six-day investment as massive. "You do not have to be a high flyer to put your name forward. The skills you learn apply to everyone."
B+LNZ general manager farm Richard Wakelin says B+LNZ initiated the programme because it recognised a win-win opportunity.
"These farmers – those involved in farmer councils and our various project farm programmes – give us a significant amount of their time and expertise and often let themselves in for additional work, all on behalf of their fellow farmers. By investing in a programme that develops them as individuals, we can give them something back, while also making them even more effective as voices for their industry."
Wakelin says the AWDT was an obvious choice to deliver the programme. "While its core objective is to tap into the potential of rural women, the reality is that the trust delivers excellent programmes – regardless of what gender participants are. We could not ask for better content, delivery and outcomes."
Trust executive director Lindy Nelson says the programme is another opportunity to use the skills of the trust to grow the capability of agriculture.
"While we normally work with women, farmer council members – who are mostly men – are every bit as keen for professional development, which they recognise will benefit both their own farming businesses and agriculture as a whole.
"The AWDT has always had place for men within our programmes. The combined partnership, where men and women work side by side within their farming business, is unique."
Nelson says that with the pilot programme now complete, some minor changes have been introduced. "What worked fabulously last year was having the trust's Escalator programme for women, external industry participants and the farmer council members all together for the governance module. Then, in the evening, we could continue on into a whole of industry governance forum – where more than 60 people shared their experiences and challenges with a panel of industry experienced directors."