AEC 410 – Internship
April 11, 2018
Glen Dene Limited is a farm (station) located on the South Island of New Zealand near the city of Wanaka. My internship was over the course of two and a half months from January to March of 2018. The station is unique in that it derives it revenue from a variety of sources not commonly observed on a production agriculture operation in the United States. The largest part of the Glen Dene’s business is big game hunting attracting customers from multiple countries. Roughly $750,000 of annual revenue is derived from this enterprise. The remainder of the annual revenue is generated through the farming of cattle, sheep, and red deer, and alfalfa hay sales.
Richard and Sarah Burdon are the current owners of Glen Dene and are the second generation to farm on the large 45,000-acre property. The team that works at Glen Dene varies by season with the number of employees sharply increasing during hunting season. There are 6 full time workers including the two owners, two farm hands, and two office assistants. During the summer, an additional 6 - 10 part time employees are hired to assist with hunting and the harvest of alfalfa hay on a 530-acre pivot.
During the duration of my internship, my job responsibilities were very diverse. I had the privilege of having both hands-on and administrative experience in every aspect of their large and diversified business. I generally worked 45-55 hours per week. During an average week approximately 30 hours were spent doing hands on farm work and assisting with the hunting business. The remaining 10 to 15 hours was used learning about the financial side of the business and creating budgets and plans for the business.
The initial learning outcomes were not exactly fulfilled by this internship but the learning outcomes I accomplished were far more valuable than the initial set of goals. Learning about the principle of adding revenue to a production operation was an applicable and effective approach to adding a consistent stream of revenue to the often volatile production agriculture sector.
I grew my ability to connect with people and build relationships that can affect both current and future personal and business endeavors. This was such a valuable thing to learn from a business perspective as I made several connections that will have future business value as well as lifelong friends. I also came to the realization that the reason I was able to participate in such a great internship was because my grandparents knew my host personally, and I would have not had this opportunity without their pre-existing relationship.
The third learning outcome I completed was learning to run a production farm along with the logistical nightmare of tourism. Through this internship I learned how management was structured to keep the businesses running smoothly. Although most of the skills I learned were ways not to do things, it was still very valuable. I learned how crucial it is to be able to delegate rather than micromanage and communicate clearly with all staff on a regular basis. This was learned through watching disaster play out regularly because of lack of communication and the inability to delegate tasks in an efficient manner.
The most valuable lesson I learned through this experience was the importance of effective management – especially in a business with multiple enterprises. Most of these skills were learned by witnessing ineffective management through the duration of my stay. Although the business was very interesting, unique, and diversified, the management was poor. I learned the importance of communication to ensure efficiency and lessen conflict as well as the crucial skill of hiring competent managers for each of the enterprises.
My work during this internship was divided into three main tasks: 1.) farm-work, 2.) hunting business logistics and assistance, and 3.) business planning and budgeting.
50 to 60 percent of my time was spent doing standard farm work. The duties included haying, velveting deer, drenching sheep, shipping sheep and cattle, moving sheep and cattle, and feeding. Although some of these experiences were not new to me, many were. I learned the dynamics of raising various kinds of stock and the management techniques used. The most important thing I learned about managing multiple types of stock is to keep detailed records of grazing and plan vigorously for different species in various pastures. Factors such as irrigation, time in each pasture, stock concentration, and conflict between stock groups all had to be considered when laying out a grazing plan for the 3,200 total animals being managed.
The aspect of the hunting business that required the most manpower was not hunting; it was managing the clients. During the duration of my stay, there was an average of 10 to 12 people per week staying at the station. My duties including helping with cooking, socializing, preparing campsites, gutting and packing out animals, and transporting clients to and from the airport amounting to about 20-30 percent of my workweek. The most valuable part of this experience was being able to practice my social skills with a multitude of very successful people. I made many business connections and friends through this part of my job as I had the privilege to visit with company executives, business proprietors, and television network owners. In addition, I gained valuable knowledge of how crucial it is to streamline as many events as possible as well as organizing the logistics in advance to reduce management stress and a better experience for the customer.
The remainder of my time (10-20 percent of my workweek) was spent learning about the financial side of the business as well as helping plan for the business’s future through building budgets. This was a very enriching experience for my experiential education as a Ag Business Major. The owner was very open with me about the financial layout of his business and I learned about the complicated planning process of managing a production operation with expansion to other enterprises. It was very interesting learning about how valuable having an income stream that isn’t set by the market is as it can pad a farm operation’s income in years that the market price of its commodity is suffering. It was in this portion of my work that I was given jurisdiction over designing budgets to improve the profitability of the business.
The problem I was able to solve at Glen Dene was because of a situation I observed doing general farm work. The price of fuel in New Zealand is approximately four times the price it is in the United States. This factor makes the variable cost of fuel during farming, haying, and other practices using equipment and vehicles far more expensive than it is in the United States. During work, I noticed they were using large, 175-horsepower tractors for every job on the farm. I did research to find out the required horse power for each task being performed and discovered the most horsepower required for any job on the farm was approximately 115 horse power. Using these assumptions, I put together a budget for the projected savings that would take place over 5 years by trading in the farm’s two 175 horse tractors for a 95-horsepower tractor. I made the point that the farm could also downsize from 3 tractors to 2, as there was never a period where all 3 tractors were being used simultaneously. Below is the budget I constructed that saves the farm approximately $266,000 over 5 years.
I determined sale and purchase prices by looking at prices from New Zealand equipment dealers with the same model of tractor that had similar hours to the farm’s tractors. All fuel consumption, maintenance, and depreciation data were derived from the 2017-2018 Custom Farm Rate and Rental Guide converted from US dollars to New Zealand dollars. This was the main project I completed that had a significant affect on farm operations. Although the owner and I decided to meet somewhere in the middle on the issue, the new situation still ended up saving the close to $150,000 over 5 years.
Overall, this was a very beneficial internship to both myself and my employer. Coming in with prior ranch experience was helpful to the employer as I often had prior knowledge of completing the task at hand meaning less training and instruction from management. Outside of farm work, I think the insight I had about the business that I provided to the employer was very beneficial to him. Outside of convincing management to purchase smaller tractors to save on annual expenses, I also had many meaningful discussions about different methods of operating that could either save costs or maximize profit by comparing his farming practices to relatively new and emerging practices that are popular in the United States.
These 3 months were more knowledge-dense than any three months I’ve spent in a school setting. I polished my personal skills, put my college business skills to work on a real-world basis, and learned many management techniques for running a multi-faceted business. The business that Glen Dene operated was extremely unique, large, and complicated and has grown exponentially in the recent past. Due to these factors, the management in place was not effective. Many of the management practices I took note of were because of how poorly things ran, rather than how smoothly. This was by far more educational and helpful since I experienced first hand the frustration of being on staff under such disorganized management. Although the management style was often frustrating, this experience was still extremely enjoyable, educational, and one of the best uses of time and money I have spent.
This experience made it clear of the importance of developing personable and genuine character qualities to build relationships with possible customers or business partners. The reason I was able to participate in this internship was because of a connection. The reason most of the clients were so successful in their businesses was because of their innate ability to connect with people and build those relationships into something that benefitted both parties. Being charismatic and easy to talk to is a skill that everyone should always continue to build, because the cliché really is true: it’s not what you know it’s who you know.
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