On Location - Grenfell Lachlan Fertilizers Rural
Article & Photography I Jennifer Harden
The historic flour mill that sits in the middle of Grenfell is steeped in history and it heralds the beginning of an illustrious journey in farm supplies for the Central West rural township.
Now positioned on-site is Delta Ag’s Lachlan Fertilizers Rural business and Branch Manager Anthony Dixon is proud of the legacy and strength of the services here that continues through the people working within the business.
“It’s the varied personal experiences and depth that each team member brings to their role that is so helpful to us as a business and that strengthens our team and elevates what we can offer our clients,” Anthony says.
Fertilizer Manager Sarah Armstrong brings more than 17 years’ of experience to her role, and she brings with her a tie to the history of the business as the fourth generation in her family to work here. It was in 1946 that her great grandfather Harold Oswald Ryder was managing the flour mill when he saw an opportunity to start his own farm supply business. This business would come to be known as H.O. Ryder and Son. The son was Frank Ryder, who was actively serving in the Army during WWII when his father’s request for an early discharge to come home and start up their new business was obliged.
“I was the first daughter to join the business and started working here casually when I was 14 years of age,” Sarah says. “Before me, the family was just a big run of boys too, I was the first girl to be born into my family in 60 years.” Sarah took her father’s advice and jumped right in learning everything there was to know, including operating the loader.
More than 75 years after first opening, with 15 full-time staff members and a premises just off the main street, Lachlan Fertilizers Rural is a big presence in their small town of Grenfell.
It’s not just the work they do at Lachlan Fertilizers that makes the team recognisable, but also the additional activities and support businesses that contribute to the Grenfell community. Mick Neill in merchandising along with his wife Maria own the Grenfell shoe store, and Anthony and his partner Belinda have just opened The Collective Grenfell, a shared work and event space. Agronomist Jenna Brewis and Trials Manager and Agronomist Nellie Evans have recently started a landscaping and garden design business in their spare time.
Fellow agronomists James Ingrey and Henry Mitton both share their time between providing agronomic services and in-store support along with running their family’s mixed farming operations, while Craig Bembrick who delivers fuel by day, moonlights as a local councillor.
When COVID-19 hit and the owner of the pub across the street closed up shop, Moe Reynolds, the on-site fuel manager saw an opportunity and purchased the Railway Hotel and he can now add publican to his impressive resume.
Before Moe Reynolds became the Fuel Manager at the Grenfell branch he had worked on a local farm, toured Australia as the drummer in a country band, done two tours of duty through the Middle East with the Australian Air Force and been a truck driver on the daily run from Bathurst to Sydney. A Grenfell local, Moe would always fuel up at Delta Ag before heading back out on the road. “I got a phone call from Anthony one day and I thought he was chasing up my bill!” laughs Moe. But, it was a job offer. Anthony thought Moe’s time in the Air Force working in logistics and aircraft movement would see him bring to the fuel role processes and discipline. His time working on the farm would lend an understanding of crucial periods in the farmers’ year and the importance of delivery timeliness and Anthony quips, “you just never know when you might need a drummer”.
The fuel team is made up of Moe and Craig who take pride in offering a personalised on-farm fuel delivery service that assures customers get their fuel exactly when they need it.
“The wheels are always turning,” says Moe, working their delivery route around urgency and proactively throwing in a few top-ups along the way for good measure.
It’s this level of service along with competitive pricing that see’s Delta Ag Grenfell’s fuel service continue to grow year on year, drawing customers from as far as 120km away.
Many of the 15 team members come from families with active farming operations, including Anthony himself. “At the age of three or four, as soon as you can walk and chase your first sheep, before you can even recognise that you are learning, you are beginning to compile a farming knowledge base.”
He believes that early farming experiences stay with you as a foundation to build on into the future. The experienced agronomy team is headed up by senior agronomist James Ingrey who has over 20 years’ experience. James, along with Henry Mitton, Jenna Brewis and Nellie Evans, each bring with them at least five years of experience in agronomy and the majority also have a rich personal history on the land.
Despite growing up on his family’s farm in Grenfell, Ed McKellar still wasn’t convinced that agriculture was the path for him. He decided instead to study accounting, however after a few courses he still felt he hadn’t found his match. He took a chance on a fertilizer and seed handling role at Lachlan Fertilizers that was meant to last just four months, and four years later he has gone from loading fertilizer to understanding the ins and outs of the business.
His familiarity with Delta Ag from a customer perspective due to regular visits sourcing supplies for his family farm and his base of accounting knowledge made him a great fit on the admin team. Ed says that it wasn’t until he found a practical application for what he had learned in his accounting courses that it all clicked for him.
For livestock production advisor Kate LeBrocque, providing good support makes all the difference to her clients and their livestock.
While she also grew up on a property, she admits the expanse of the property on the outskirts of Sydney is minuscule in comparison to those she visits in her current role. The year she turned 11, a few cows were added to her family peaking her interest in livestock and leading her to explore the agriculture classes that her high school offered, even joining the cattle show team.
These experiences paved the path for her to pursue a Bachelor of Agriculture at university and upon graduating she found herself quite literally out in the field working as a pasture agronomist and selling seed. As a by-product of her job and the fact that pasture is by nature feed for livestock she became more and more interested in animal nutrition and began to focus on this area of agriculture which brought her to Lachlan Fertilizers Rural 12 months ago.
Kate is thankful for the size of the team at the Grenfell branch which allows her to focus on her passion of helping farmers produce and maintain healthier livestock.
She feels proud to be able to take a few things off their plate by being knowledgeable about her clients’ livestock and their calendar. This helps them to stay one step ahead of any seasonal challenges and works in with her goal of creating proactive operations instead of reactive ones.
Kate and the rest of the team feel privileged to be given so much personal information about their client’s enterprises.
The productivity gains of the Grenfell clients provide immense satisfaction for the entire team and it’s through these close partnerships and excellent communication that they are able to stay on the front foot and really kick goals.