Respected Nutrien agent Graeme Hampel calls time on great career

CM
By Catherine Miller
May 1 2022 - 6:30am
RETIREMENT TIME: Nutrien Bordertown agent Graeme Hampel developed a close relationship with many stud and commercial clients in his 52 years in the job.

There are not many people that can say they have spent more than 50 years of their working lives with the one company but Nutrien Ag Solutions livestock agent Graeme Hampel is one who can - albeit a company that has had several name changes.

During his 52-year tenure, he has worked at 11 branches across SA from the Eyre Peninsula to the Mid North, Murraylands and even Kangaroo Island, but it has been Bordertown where he has been for the past 30 years - up until his retirement last month.

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Throughout the years, he has built strong relationships with his clients, working hard to get the best price for their livestock.

"Listening to the client is so important, your rapport with them will be based on that," he said.

It all began in January 1970 when as a 16-year-old lad from a farm at Warramboo, he started at Bennett & Fisher's Wudinna branch as an office clerk.

"I went for an interview on the Wednesday night and started on the Monday morning," he said.

He then had office stints at Murray Bridge and Lock, where much of the job was double entry book keeping, ensuring everything balanced to the last cent.

In September 1974, Graeme was given an opportunity to get out on the road with Bennett & Fisher at Loxton handing him the keys to a Holden Kingswood car.

"We had fortnightly fat markets with Southern Farmers, Elders had one the next fortnight and every time there were five Thursdays in the month we had a sale of our own at Paringa, which I actually ran because it was my area," he said.

From there he enjoyed a shift to Mallala which he remembers as a great training ground into prime stock, spending each Tuesday at Gepps Cross penning and drafting sheep and cattle often from early hours of the morning.

From there it was two years at Brinkworth and then a move to Parndana in October 1979 where he remained until 1983.

At the time there were about one million sheep on Kangaroo Island.

"There were some big numbers, everyone had a truck load of boat wethers," he said.

His next posting for 2.5 years was Burra - another big sheep area with yardings up to 20,000 head. This further stemmed his interest in wool and stud sheep.

In August 1985, he started at Cummins and in 1987 was appointed branch manager.

"One of my highlights was picking up 1000 bales of wool in my five years there - it was a 5000 bale branch," he said.

Graeme's next move in 1991 was to Landmark Coonalpyn and the following year he got another shift - this time to Bordertown, which he still calls home and where he will remain in his retirement.

He says it is a pretty special area with reliable rainfall enabling producers to turn off some exceptional lambs and steers.

The Upper South East is also the heartland for Poll Hereford studs, which has given him a chance to work closely with stud breeders - something he has enjoyed - including trips to the Dubbo, NSW, and Wodonga, Vic, national multi-vendor sales.

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He has also relished having Ridgway Advance and Callowie Poll Merino studs as clients.

Graeme says he never could have imagined weaners making $2000-plus and lambs hitting $250-plus - a far cry from the late 1980s when sheep were nearly worthless.

"I remember one day we sold 350 big Merino ewes and I think we got $3.50 delivered to Murray Bridge and it was three dollars something freight - they were 80kg liveweight ewes," he said.

The method of selling has also changed from saleyards in nearly every rural town to on-hook selling and a big electronic saleyard in AuctionsPlus.

There have been some highs and some lows but I wouldn't have been in it for 52 years if I didn't enjoy it.

- GRAEME HAMPEL, Nutrien Bordertown

He says AuctionsPlus has been advantageous attracting more buyer competition.

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"COVID probably did us a favour with our offshears sales. Putting them on AuctionsPlus instead we probably got $40-$60 more, whereas it had been a struggle to get the buyers here with only 4000 to 6000 sheep," he said.

Another noticeable change has been the increasing numbers of women working in agriculture, which he sees as a big plus.

"There are many women who are so switched on, who do the books, are in the shearing shed and in the paddocks, it is as strong in this area as I have seen anywhere," he said.

Graeme says he could not have succeeded in his career without the support of his wife Liz and their three children - Nick, Rebecca and Stacey - who all live locally with their families.

"There have been some highs and some lows but I wouldn't have been in it for 52 years if I didn't enjoy it," he said. "The loyalty towards agents seems to have gone but I have been fortunate to have many of my clients stick with me."

Nutrien SA general manager Craig Tapfield thanked Graeme for his great contribution and strong relationships with his clients and colleagues.

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"Graeme has witnessed and been part of many developments and changes in the ag industry during his working life, and has shared his expertise and knowledge while mentoring other livestock representatives at Nutrien Ag Solutions," he said.

"His service and commitment to the industry is highly commended and I hope it inspires a new generation of professionals to consider a career in agriculture."

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