A joint initiative between Farmlands Co-operative and Silver Fern Farms Co-operative has resulted in the two organisations being named the winners of the Co-operation Amongst Co-operatives Award.

The award was announced by Co-operative Business New Zealand at a recent function in Christchurch.

To the Core was a three-day governance development programme co-designed by the co-operatives for shareholders wanting to build their knowledge of how their co-operatives operate, and to feed their appetite to develop rural leadership skills.

A challenge that New Zealand co-operatives faced was ensuring shareholders were engaged in the future governance of the companies they owned, Farmlands chairman Lachie Johnstone said.

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The need for a strong pool of potential directors was critical to the longevity of both businesses — there are more than 68,000 Farmlands shareholders and a further 21,000 at Silver Fern Farms Co-operative.

Silver Fern Farms Co-operative chairman Rob Hewett said the co-operative ran the first To the Core programme in 2016 with the Burnside Hart Co-operative Education Trust. It saw the potential to grow the programme alongside another like-minded co-operative.