Stephanie Tabone from Queensland participated in the 2018 Growing Leaders program, which allowed her to further develop her leadership skills. This professional development will assist in her production management role at vegetable growing operation Kalfresh, as well as her involvement in the wider vegetable industry.

Fast facts

Name: Stephanie Tabone
Location: Kalbar, Queensland
Works: Kalfresh
Grows: Carrots

Stephanie Tabone is never afraid of a challenge.

Upon completion of her Bachelor of Science in Agriculture at the University of Sydney, the 23-year-old uprooted herself from her family in Sydney in early 2017 to undertake a graduate program at Kalfresh Vegetables in Kalbar, south-west of Brisbane, which has blossomed into a production management role.

Stephanie’s partner initially accompanied her to help settle in, but he has since taken on a production role at Kalfresh and the couple recently purchased a home together. Being out of their comfort zone clearly suits the go-ahead growers.

Kalfresh began as a family business in 1992 and has since become a multi-million-dollar vegetable growing and packing enterprise. Stephanie’s role encompasses management of product quality, safety and hygiene in Kalfresh’s facilities; process and packing efficiency; achieving key performance indicators; and management and support of employees (a team of 20), while ensuring the crop is maximised and supplied on time and in full to customers.

Another feather in Stephanie’s cap is her graduation in September 2018 from the six-month Growing Leaders program, a strategic levy investment under the Hort Innovation Vegetable Fund. Facilitated by leadership development company Affectus, this year’s program provided the opportunity for emerging leaders in the Australian vegetable industry to develop their personal, business and industry skills during workshops in Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra.

"It's a great way to build confidence in yourself to step up into leadership roles."

Leadership challenge

Eighteen attendees from a range of growing, leadership and organisational backgrounds participated in the residential workshops. A key component of the program is the opportunity for participants to work in groups and develop strategies to achieve the cohort’s chosen vision of ‘producing clean and green vegetables for everyone, everywhere’. Stephanie says the program organisers brought a lot of energy to these discussions.

“You are challenged to step outside your comfort zone and be the best version of yourself. You are also given opportunities to develop and practice new skills and to share your strengths with your team,” she says.

Stephanie’s strategy group chose the topic of Championing Change, which aims to share the success stories of people in the industry to encourage cultural change in the sector. The topics discussed covered all aspects of the supply chain, emphasising that positive change is an industry-wide team effort, Stephanie says.

Industry exposure

The program’s workshops encompassed knowledge-sharing, developing leadership skills and creating mission statements that were presented at parliamentary meetings with Federal Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud, Senator Richard Colbeck and Victorian Independent MP Cathy McGowan.

Among the influential speakers who presented to the group was Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority CEO Dr Chris Parker.

“He gave us seven tips on what comprises a good leader and every single one of those resonated with me,” Stephanie says.

They included developing a set of personal, ethical values that also align with your workplace’s values; having courage and decisiveness; and listening carefully because you learn something new from everybody.

Stephanie was unequivocal about the program exceeding her expectations and encouraged other young industry members to follow suit.

“It’s a great way to build confidence in yourself to step up into leadership roles and the facilitators are incredibly encouraging in providing feedback for areas of improvement. The other participants would agree that we’ve forged strong connections with each other for future networking and friendships,” she says.

Needless to say, the future looks bright for this rising industry star.

Growing Leaders has been funded by Hort Innovation using the vegetable research and development levy and contributions from the Australian Government.

This grower profile first appeared in Grower Success Stories, a levy-funded booklet published by AUSVEG to promote real results from levy investment, and was featured in the AUSVEG Weekly Update published 15 January 2019. If you’d like to subscribe to receive AUSVEG publications, use our online subscription form!

Photography credit: Anna Osetroff