5 minutes with Gerard Hines, MD Delta Agribusiness

I cannot believe it has been almost 12 months since Rebecca Milliken, head of HR at Delta Agribusiness found out about Active Farmers, which lead quickly to Delta Agribusiness and coming on board as both a sponsor and a partner of Active Farmers! I therefore thought it was timely to share some invaluable information about Delta and their MD Gerard Hines!

Gerard, Can you tell us a bit about where you grew up and your life career pre-Delta?

I grew up on a family farm at Wallendbeen near Cootamundra, and always thought as a young person that I would follow in my father’s footsteps and be a farmer. I went to St Patricks College Goulburn as a boarder, and afterwards had 2 years at Orange Ag College completing an Assoc Diploma in farm management. After that I went home to the farm for a few years, and then out of left field, got the opportunity to get some off-farm experience in a local fertiliser business in Cootamundra. I approached this with the view of returning home after a few years, but fell in love with retail and the agri services business. In 1988 as a 25-year-old, I was then given the opportunity to invest in a small rural supply business at Monteagle just north of Young, called Chandlers Rural Centre. It was here that I teamed up with Chris Duff, John Pattinson and others who are still close colleagues today, and now nearly 30 years later, we are still at it! 

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Can you tell us how Delta Agribusiness evolved?

Delta Ag evolved from a small group of 8 of us that worked closely together in the Chandlers business. We had sold our share in Chandlers Landmark in 2003 to our partners Wesfarmers, who were terrific partners, and quite formative in our business careers, however soon afterwards, they then on sold the business to the AWB. As things evolved over the next few years, it was a very different parent company, undergoing a lot of change, and so we made the decision to chart our own destiny, and to build our own fully independent business from scratch, with a group of likeminded friends that had a very strong loyalty to each other, and a diverse and complimentary skill base. This had always been our underlying goal given the opportunity, so on April fool’s day in 2006, we opened Delta Ag, initially at Young and Harden. 

What is the vision and mission of Delta Agribusiness?

Our vision at Delta is simply to add value to our customers, our people though providing strong career opportunities and the ability to invest in the business, and to our shareholders who entrust their capital to us. Our mission is to create a sustainable agribusiness that increases the profitability and efficiencies of our clients, based around the best people, the best advisory and technical support, strong and disciplined retail of rural goods and services, and investment in the many rural communities that we participate in for the benefit of all stakeholders. We are also investing heavily in a range of new technology offerings through our subsidiary company discovery Ag that we believe will be integral to the next wave of farm production uplifts and efficiencies. 

Where are you located and what can someone expect to see when they enter a Delta store?

Delta now has 28 business locations throughout NSW, stretching from Goondiwindi on the QLD border, to Lockhart in the southern Riverina. Our core strength and focus is on Dryland and irrigated crops, livestock production, animal health and nutrition, the supply of the full range of farm inputs, and the marketing of our clients outputs, namely Livestock and grain, as well as providing Finance and insurance solutions to our clients. We have worked hard to create a consistent and strong brand, so when entering a Delta store, my hope is that customers should experience a warm, engaging and professional environment. People are the business and our greatest asset, so our goal is to meet and endeavour to exceed our customers expectations upon entering one of our businesses, and to add value to their enterprise through good service, quality products and sound advice. 

Why did you decide to sponsor and partner with Active Farmers?

Our involvement with Active Farmers is something we are very proud of. We decided to support this great cause and initiative because we really do see each day across our business, the very real need to somehow provide greater support to many rural people and families that are under a wave of increasing pressures; from financial, to geographic isolation, to fitness and health, and regular and healthy social interaction, on top of a very real increasing level of depression and mental health issues in rural Australia is the backdrop for the need for this type of initiative. Ginny’s initial short video on why she established Active Farmers, and why it was important was very compelling, and really hit a nerve with me. It tapped into our social responsibility as a company that is very close to the people and communities that we work with and serve. We discussed it internally and decided that this was something special that needed the support of companies like ours to really enable it, to give it the resources to get some increased momentum, to be able to really make a difference. Its such a great initiative that has and will continue to have unquantifiable benefits to many families and communities. 

What do you hope to achieve by supporting Active Farmers?

By supporting Active Farmers, our hope is to be a small part of the catalyst that changes people’s lives and futures for the better, and to also hopefully motivate or inspire other organisations and individuals to provide support to the level of their means. A healthy body is integral to a healthy mind, and improving fitness levels is a major challenge for many people who are often isolated from proper facilities and qualified support and bogged down with day to day work. Active Farmers provides that crucial supportive environment that is not intimidating or judgemental, and brings people together of all ages and levels of fitness for the benefit of all. 

You are very health conscious yourself and love to road bike ride, have you always been this way inclined?

No, I played a lot of Cricket and Rugby as a young person, but a bad knee injury in my late 20’s, and then the pressures that come from juggling a young family and growing a business inevitably led me down that easily trodden path of becoming quite unfit. So, I had probably 15 years where I was slowly heading down an unhealthy track, and its very easy to have excuses, I’m too busy, I can’t run on my knee, etc etc. I discovered cycling nearly 10 years ago now, and it has changed my life in so many positive ways. Apart from the obvious health benefits of regular and challenging exercise, the social interaction, and the diversity of the people you meet is quite incredible. We now have a growing cycling clan within Delta, as well as other sports, and I think its very important that all businesses support and encourage exercise and fitness from within. People are so much more productive when they have a regular exercise routine, better sleep, and a clearer mind. It also leads to being better educated around good nutrition. 

Being from a rural background how does supporting Active Farmers and rural physical and mental health resonate with you?

Supporting Active Farmers to me now is a natural thing to do, and really does resonate with me. I can see, understand and appreciate the tremendous benefits that flow from such a great initiative. What I have learnt is that making the first step is the hardest one. People can be very insecure about their state of fitness, and going to that first class can be very intimidating. I was very much like that, and was almost dragged to my first group bike ride by a great guy in Young who decided to make a difference and get a lot of us off our butts. His approach was very supportive and understanding, just like Active Farmers, and after that initial experience, you realise that you are one of many in the same boat, and you quickly progress if you stick at it, and meet a lot of other great people along the way. 

Do you have a favourite motto that you live by?

My underlying motto is to try and always appreciate, give time to, support and love the people that matter the most. Also, to endeavour to be positive, enthusiastic, considerate and generous, and to have genuine empathy.

Thank you very much Gerard and Delta Agribusiness! Without the support of this fantastic organisation Active Farmers would not have been able to expand from 2 communities to a grand total of 17 in just 12 months! This support will also assist the expansion of several communities to start in the new year! We feel extremely lucky and proud to be working alongside Delta Agribusiness to help improve the physical and mental health of farmers and rural communities!

For more information about Delta Agribusiness follow this link

Ginny Stevens