Nature and nurture: How to best engage with the next generation

Nature and nurture: How to best engage with the next generation


Opinion
FUTURE: Bundaberg macadamia grower, Josh Steinhardt,  started working under his dad’s loving guidance on the farm, straight out of school.

FUTURE: Bundaberg macadamia grower, Josh Steinhardt, started working under his dad’s loving guidance on the farm, straight out of school.

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The next generation needs a helping hand if we want them to take up the farm.

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WHEN growing crops, a lot more is required than just choosing the right stock.

A great deal of care is needed to ensure that the crop is nurtured right from the beginning to allow it to flourish and provide the best harvest possible.

From giving it enough space, enough light, providing the right nutrients to ensuring the correct irrigation is in place, it takes a lot of love, care and thought to ensure you give the crop the best chance to survive and succeed.

Nurturing the next generation of farmers to be the best leaders and custodians for your land and business is not too dissimilar.

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It starts from a young age and certainly is a long-term commitment. It takes a gentle hand and ongoing encouragement.

One of the best examples of giving the next generation the right nurturing to allow them to grow and get ready to step into the incumbent generation’s shoes is the Steinhardt/Gerry family in Bundaberg.

While the family decided to support in generational continuity by way of investing in family governance and providing mentoring to the entire next generation, I would love to tell you a little more about the journey of one of the next generation specifically.

Josh Steinhardt, 24, started working under his dad’s loving guidance on the farm, straight out of school. He learnt what he needed to learn about growing macadamias, from putting sprinklers into the orchard to learning about water levels and irrigation, nutrition and soil health.

His journey working on the family farm over the past eight years has taught him everything he needs to know about farming macadamia nuts.

However, there was one important piece of the puzzle he didn’t hold.

When Josh started, the research into the crop, what it needs and how to best set the orchards up was already complete and the first trees four years old. Josh had a desire to learn how to solve those problems himself.

“A few years ago, we went to a field day on a lemon farm,” he said.

“I was looking at the farm with dad and we were impressed with the orchard and how it was set up. A few years down the track we started talking and thinking about having a bit of a go.”

Susanne Bransgrove, director, LiquidGold Consultants.

Susanne Bransgrove, director, LiquidGold Consultants.

The decision was made to provide Josh with a parcel of land, originally earmarked for macadamia nuts, to use for his own new project of growing lemons.

This was going to give him the room to explore and find the necessary answers needed when deciding to divest or diversify into a new crop, a skill so critical for the future of the family business.

From understanding the market for this new crop, the soil type and nutrition it needs to grow, to the logistics and the sale side, a lot of research and thought was required to make this project successful.

While Josh loves the chance to think for himself and have the room to grow, he also knows that it would be a hard journey to be on without his father’s guidance.   

“It is great to be able to feel a sense of ownership and to learn and take risks, while having the support and mentors around me,” Josh said.

It is our 60th year in business this year and our family has been through a lot of ups and downs. From here and through this project, I hope to continue our legacy. - Josh Steinhardt

“I couldn’t ask for a better family business background or people to guide me.”

His father, Kevin, was part of the decision-making to change the family’s future from small crops to macadamia nuts and he intuitively knew that the future for their children and future generations might lie in their ability to change direction, if needed.

The Lemon Project, as it is affectionately known, is certainly providing Josh with the chance to find the missing piece of the puzzle and to play his part in continuing the family legacy.

“I am also grateful for the knowledge that I have learnt from my dad and pop,” Josh said.

“It is our 60th year in business this year and our family has been through a lot of ups and downs. From here and through this project, I hope to continue our legacy.”

Without nurturing the next generation to have the confidence, skills and passion to take your farm into the future and by holding on to how things have been, farming businesses are at an increased risk to break apart when the current generation wants to or needs to step back.

Watching Josh grow during the past year of my journey with the family in assisting them with integrating the next generation into the business, has been an absolute delight and I have no doubt that the lemon project will be a success and also provide him with everything he needs to confidently make important decisions for the farm.

Nurturing, supporting and believing in the next generation is proving to be a positive strategy for this family.

  • Susanne Bransgrove is a director of LiquidGold Consultants, which specialises in working with family businesses across Australia. Growing up as part of a third generation family business, Susanne combines her personal knowledge of the sector along with her 20 plus year working history as a leading advisor and professional with the likes of Macquarie Bank, ANZ and Commerzbank Bremen to provide expert opinion on a range of issues in running a family business and meeting the needs of multiple generations. 
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