August 18, 2011 1
NZ farmer wins prestigious 2011 Australasian business development award
New Zealand farmer Lance Gillespie has been awarded the 2011 Rabobank Business Development Prize for a management project undertaken to enhance human resources management at his dairy operation, Table Flat Holdings,
in the central North Island.
The prize – which is awarded annually as part of the Rabobank Executive Development Program – was presented to Mr Gillespie at the graduation of a group of leading primary producers from around New Zealand and
Australia who recently completed the program, a business development course for Australasias leading agricultural
Mr Gillespies winning project focused on improving human resource management tools in his farm business, through the
creation of a comprehensive Farm Operations Manual.
“I see human resource management as the key to running a successful farm business in this challenging environment where
we are competing for the right people to fill positions,” he said.
Mr Gillespie said the Farm Operations Manual formed the first part of his plan to retain and attract staff. “It gives a
detailed overview of what the business is, how it operates and where we are heading as well as provides clarity of roles
and clearly outlines the skills required for different positions,” he says. “This manual allows us, as an employer, and
our employees and prospective employees to gain a better understanding of each other.”
Mr Gillespie said the manual functioned as an invaluable “living document” for the business which will be reviewed,
updated and modified over time, with plans also to add modules on grazing management, calf rearing, tractor and
machinery operation and maintenance and effluent management.
Located on 309 hectares at Apiti, 50 kilometres north west of Palmerston North, Table Flat Holding runs 400 head of
dairy cattle, producing 180,000 kg MS (milk solids) per year off 145 hectares. Eighty hectares is leased for dairying
from a neighbour, in a lease/swap arrangement; in turn 160 hectares of hill slope is leased out to run sheep and beef
At some 680 metres above sea level, the area has traditionally been a sheep and beef farming area. The high altitude
sees the business having to contend with dairying in a sub-alpine climate, managing snowfalls during winter and early
With the farm initially purchased as a joint venture with his brother and sister-in-law in 2004, Lance Gillespie and his
wife Katherine took full ownership of the business in 2007, moving to the property with their three children – Ethan
(now 10), Charlotte (eight) and Lauren (four). Media Release August 18, 2011 2
Mr Gillespie currently has two full-time employees in the business, including farm manager Arno Renes, who along with
his wife Anita is also a 10 per cent equity holder, and one part-time staff member.
Mr Gillespie – who had previously also completed the Rabobank Farm Managers Program for up-and-coming young farm leaders
– said he had drawn on the skills and ideas garnered from the both programs to put in place his management project and
to plan the further development of his business operation.
“These programs have undoubtedly been the best off-farm educational experiences Ive had since leaving school,” he said.
“Everything you learn, and are exposed to, on the courses is relevant to agriculture and your business and where you are
As a result of undertaking the Executive Development Program, Mr Gillespie says he has also begun planning for future
growth – taking the business through to „horizon 2 development stage and looking ahead to where he wants the operation
to be in 10 to 20 years time. Part of this may involve leveraging under-utilised areas of his property to expand into
farming other commodities.
The opportunity to interact and develop an ongoing network with the other progressive and innovative primary producers
participating in the course was also an invaluable part of the program, Mr Gillespie said.
“It was also a great learning experience to be with these other producers, who you gain valuable knowledge from as well
– in terms of the issues they manage in their businesses and also how they would approach the decisions you are facing
in your business. Weve all made life-long friends and an invaluable ongoing business network,” he said.
Now in its twelfth year, the Rabobank Executive Development program provides farmers from across New Zealand and
Australia, and a range of agricultural sectors, the opportunity to develop and enhance their business management skills.
Run annually and spread across two week-long residential modules, the program introduces participants to the latest
practices in business management, leadership, strategy, finance, human resources, value chain management and marketing,
and how these can be applied to their farm businesses.
Rabobank business programs manager Nerida Sweetapple said all projects presented by this years graduates were great
examples of how participants had applied their learnings from the Executive Development Program to their farming
“Many participants had documented the changes they had made and had already produced significant results for their
businesses,” she said. Media Release August 18, 2011
“Lances project – the development of a Farm Operations Manual – was outstanding. He combined a number of tools he gained
from the program, but took it a stop further to produce something that is very tangible and useful to his operations on
Rabobank Australia & New Zealand is a part of the international Rabobank Group, the world’s leading specialist in food and agribusiness
banking. Rabobank has more than 110 years’ experience providing customised banking and finance solutions to businesses
involved in all aspects of food and agribusiness. Rabobank is structured as a cooperative and operates in 48 countries,
servicing the needs of approximately 10 million clients worldwide through a network of more than 1600 offices and
branches. Rabobank Australia & New Zealand is one of Australasia’s leading rural lenders and a significant provider of business and corporate banking
and financial services to the region’s food and agribusiness sector. The bank has 93 branches throughout Australia and