Retires after 44 years as a Stock & Station Agent.
Geoff, what prompted your retirement?
After selling rural properties with Landmark for the past 18 years, I took long service leave mid last year and enjoyed the change so much, Di and I made the decision to extend my time off and retire! I found there is always something going on to keep me busy; I like to muck about in the shed, as blokes do.
Di is happy to have me home to help in the garden. We also like to travel, whether it is overseas, or within Australia with our caravan, so retirement sounded like a good way to be able to do some more travelling at our leisure.
Our son, Wesley, and wife Kelly and their daughters, Sophia and Bronte, live near Coonabarabran, and we look forward to visiting them more through the year. Daughter Jane, and her soon to be husband, Deon, reside in Newcastle and, likewise, we look forward to more time with them.
Can you tell us a little of the Geoff Leedham story?
I was born in Tamworth, and I spent my younger school life in Lismore. Much of these early days were spent on a dairy farm, and during the school holidays I spent every Thursday at the Lismore cattle sales.
I lived in Tamworth through my high school years. After leaving school I spent some time in the Northern Territory as a ringer on cattle stations. I started my livestock agency career in 1972 as a trainee auctioneer with Winchcombe Carson, based at the regional office in Tamworth. From there, I moved around gaining experience in Grafton, Casino, Tenterfield, Glen Innes, Quirindi and Gunnedah. Di and I were married in 1974, and the company posted me to the Gunnedah branch. I took a transfer to Armidale 1975, we purchased a house in Uralla and remained there until 1979, then there were further moves to Tamworth and Glen Innes.
We moved back to Armidale in late 1986 and have remained here since then. In late 1998, after Wesfarmers purchased my stock and station agency, I was appointed the rural property sales specialist with Wesfarmers Dalgety Armidale, later Landmark and finally Landmark Harcourts. By this point in time, I had already formed a reasonable knowledge of the New England district and had gained a wide network of contacts associated with the land. I generally like to travel and look about and discover something new, and the rural property job gave me this with the thorough inspections over many properties throughout the New England.
As a livestock agent you mainly visited the cattle yards, the shearing shed/sheep yards, or the fattening paddocks and then were gone again to the next job. Rarely do you see a lot of the property. In the rural property sales role, I reckon I saw more of New England in the first five years than I saw the previous 25 years as a stock agent. This I found most satisfying. I was still having ongoing contact with clients with whom I had previously formed good relationships; this was another aspect of the job I really looked forward to.
Fourty-four years in the Stock & Station game is a long time to be in one profession … how has the industry changed?
Yes, agency has certainly changed over the time. Due to many new laws, industrial regulations, technology, inflation etc. the job has changed considerably. The characters, unusual scenes and hilarious and/or frightening predicaments we older agents experienced, have now all gone.
They may have been challenging times, but also exciting. In the early days of being a livestock agent, there was no such thing as having a full weekend off … we were driven hard, and we tended to work the hours the land owners worked. In the ‘70’s and ‘80s, stock dealers and restockers kept us on the move sourcing stock.
Flying to stock sales was reasonably common in the early ‘70s; however the mid ‘70s cattle slump put a stop to that, and from then on it was long hours in motor cars trying to make good time. Many western merino sheep were brought into the New England on an annual basis; this eased off due to animal health issues, the scrapping of the Wool Reserve Price Scheme, increasing sale and resale costs. These factors also influenced the downscaling and/or demise of the livestock dealers.
Once upon a time we would spend time with our clients in the pub on a regular basis, and after stock sales commiserating or congratulating each other, building relationships and networking.
We would also meet up regularly with buyers and fellow agents discussing the local, national and global issues – all this changed once the drink driving laws became more enforced. Technology has also changed the business – early hours in the morning and ‘til late at night were spent on the telephone talking with clients, chasing buyers or organising carriers for the weekly sales; mobile technology has changed that.
Computer aided livestock marketing has proven popular, and the offering online of rural properties is increasing. Unfortunately, in line with many businesses, the middle man becomes vulnerable and is often cut out by the online marketing and direct sales – while it might be perceived to be efficient, it certainly doesn’t build the relationships, loyalty or family involvement as was evident in the past.
Any parting words in retirement?
I still speak to Jon Goudge at Landmark Harcourts regularly, and I enjoy that involvement. I am looking forward to spending more time with my family, travelling, in the garden, and a hit of golf. I look forward to what the future holds in retirement … All Over, All Done!