Victoria Westbrooke1, David Gray2 and Elizabeth Kemp2
1Faculty of Agribusiness and Commerce, Lincoln University, Lincoln 7647, New Zealand
2School of Agriculture and Environment, College of Sciences, Massey University, Private Bag 11222, Palmerston North
New farm consultants can be expensive to train, both financially and in terms of the time required. The aim for new consultants is to develop a ‘full book’ of clients to become economically viable as quickly as possible. While research into farm consultancy processes can assist with training, trainees also need to develop expertise in farm consultancy. A case study of a consultant with four years’ experience was conducted to gather information on the training of farm consultants. This paper reports on the consultants development of professional expertise and a‘full book’ of clients.
The study found that there was an emphasis on ‘learning-by-doing’. Developing expertise involved progressing from simpler to more complex problems and farming systems. This occurred while moving from supervised work to working with farmer groups and project work, before working independently with clients. The reputation of both the consultancy firm and the trainee and the trainee’s social capital, within and outside the firm, were critical to building a client base. This study has made explicit the process of developing professional expertise, including key factors in building a client base, which maybe valuable for other trainee farm consultants and their firms.
Dr Westbrooke has a background in farm consultancy and currently teaches farm management to both undergraduate and post-graduate students at the Faculty of Agribusiness and Commerce, Lincoln University. Her academic interests range from farming systems and the effects of farm scale to evaluation and extension.