Farm Tender

Ag Journey - 10 Years Today

By James Madden - Managing Director, Flinders + Co.

See the original article here.

10 years ago to the day Dad and I arrived late one windy night on Flinders Island. He had packed up and sold his entire life in Melbourne, sunk his life savings into the purchase of an old abattoir, and now, as we unpacked the bare mattresses we would sleep on that night, the daunting reality of the size of the mountain before us started to emerge.

The next morning, in the plain glare of the spring sun, we stood, dazed and tired, and took stock of the situation. A dilapidated abattoir. An ageing, bare cottage. Not enough funds. Third hand machinery bought on credit. A significant mortgage. No suppliers. No customers. No real idea of what we were doing.

 I imagined this is what people meant when they would say to "run on the smell of an oily rag".

No alt text provided for this image On the barge to Flinders Island. Adventure awaits.

And as we got to work over the next few years, anything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Our truck was from the 1950’s, rusted out. Our tractor had constant leaks. Forklifts that wouldn’t start, vans that would overheat, machinery that would corrode in the salty island air, and replacement parts that we would have to wait for to be flown in. The roof of the abattoir caved in. The roof of another shed flew off.

It was a tough gig, but Dad never shied away from the challenge. He just put his head down and somehow got it done.

 10 years on and we’ve had some incredible highs and some anxiety ridden lows. From winning the ABC Delicious Produce Awards, to very nearly going broke when a bad debt went wrong. But through the few successes and the many, many mistakes, Dad’s confidence in me has never waivered.

No alt text provided for this imageOur 1950's-era dump truck. No working brakes.

10 years on and we’ve run an abattoir, a butcher shop, a farm, and now a distribution business. There’s been many challenges, a never ending list of mistakes, and days where it all just seemed too hard.

But we have been blessed to have so many fantastic staff work with us over the years, to help us try to turn our, and their, dreams into reality. Many are still with us to this day.

We’ve met so many fantastic customers and suppliers who have supported us and our sometimes crazy-sounding visions, many of whom have become life long friends.

No alt text provided for this image

Dad down, unblocking "The Drain". All the blood, gunk and shit from the abattoir drained here before being pumped out to settling ponds. Due to it's design it became blocked regularly. The smell took days to get out of your clothes. 

There are too many people to thank who have helped us on this journey - but you all know who you are. And Dad and I appreciate everything you have all done from the very bottom of our hearts.

We’re proud of where we have come from - and what we’ve been able to do. Merely surviving in business for this long is an achievement in itself. It’s a tough gig, and running a small business is the hardest slog there is.

We’re excited for the next 10 years. To build on the blood, sweat and tears we’ve all laid down that binds the concrete of our company’s foundations.

And while we can’t celebrate this milestone the way we’d want to right now, we’re looking forward to raising a glass with many close friends and colleagues at an event in the new year.

To finish, I want to bring it back to this day, 10 years ago. Dad and I had just embarked on the greatest adventure of our lives. Dad’s boldness, his pioneering attitude, his monstrous leap into the abyss that seemed crazy then, and still seems crazy to this day, is something that still amazes me.

It would’ve been much easier for him to continue a comfortable, easy life in suburban Melbourne, safe in the proximity of family and a familiar job. But he had a desire to see what was over the horizon, to push on and see where the unlit path leads.

So take a leap. Back yourself. Dream big and don’t wait for tomorrow. Take on the adventure, and push your limits. Trust me, you won’t regret it.