New Farmlands Board Observer appointed

Southland’s Robert Kempthorne has started his 12 month stint as Farmlands Board Observer, a role designed to provide the next generation of directors direct access to high-level rural governance.

Robert is the second Farmlands Board Observer, following the end of Bay of Plenty grower Braden Hungerford’s tenure earlier this year. The role provides mentoring and the ability to attend Board meetings with full speaking rights, although they are unable to vote on co-operative matters.

Operating a dairy and sheep operation in Te Anau Basin, half way between Mossburn and Te Anau, Robert and his wife Anna milk 600 cows, sell Jersey service bulls and farm 2,100 mixed age ewes with replacements on the property’s hill country – offering a diverse mix across the farm’s 748 hectares.

Robert describes his previous governance experience as “localised”, with governance experience at Board of Trustee and regional level, such as Southern Dairy Development Trust and other regional farm leadership initiatives.

“The first reason I applied to be Farmlands Board Observer is that it’s a co-operative and I’m very much a ‘co-operative ethos’ type person,” he says. “The second reason was the ability to learn from the people that are currently on the Board. Also that Farmlands is now a very large, nationwide business with significant turnover. There are great people involved and opportunities to learn.”

Robert has been proactive in his governance education, having participated in governance programmes through both Fonterra and Silver Fern Farms. The Board Observer role is another opportunity for development and Robert is looking forward to building more relationships and networks within the primary sector.

“I want to be immersed in those decisions and see the inner governance workings of one of the larger cooperatives in the country.” he says.

Robert’s advice for farmers and growers that may be unsure of taking the next step in rural governance is simple – don’t underestimate the skills you have developed during your time working the land.

“In terms of your breadth of understanding of things such as risk, a lot of it is about common sense. A lot of why we farm is the same as what Farmlands’ core objectives are, so it’s a good fit,” he says.

“The biggest thing in terms of trying to foster the next generation (of rural governance) is don’t underestimate yourself in terms of the knowledge you’ve already got. It’s not that big, mysterious beast – a lot of it is just good, basic skills and listening and questioning.”