The same vagaries could be used to describe Matt’s colourful expedition across each corner of the country, chasing cattle to cotton, and raking up as many learnings as agriculture could offer him.
Now, ticking over ten years at Mort & Co, Matt’s passion for the industry remains without waver.
“I’m just mad passionate about farming. I love the technology of farming. I enjoy the people and challenges of farming and this year is no exception to the rule. It’s producing a crop through to harvest and really seeing your hard work. It’s knowing that you are working with the soils, you’re working with the land to produce best possible outcomes.”
Matt grew up across a number of mixed farming and grazing operations in western Victoria before his family relocated to South Australia.
Heading north to Darwin to study law and accounting, Matt commenced his first interstate venture. After two and a half years, the romance of the west got the better of him, and not before a stint with a stock and station course in Katherine, Matt packed his swag and went in search of his red-dirt dream.
Biding his time on a sheep station back in his home state, Matt was working for one of Australia’s largest wool producers, before he got the call to join a team in WA’s Pilbara region.
“I have seen a lot of Australia and I’ve worked in a lot of it. I never had the desire to travel outside of it really.”
“I met a best mate while chasing cattle in an outback set of yards and he was from a cotton growing region around Moree. I always wanted to get into farming, and cotton in particular, due to the technology involved and the rapid evolution that cotton was engaging in at that time. So, in 98’ I moved to Moree.”
Matt set himself a goal of five years to move up from farm hand and into a management position, and in 2003, just shy of his five-year milestone, Matt was approached by his boss to manage a newly purchased property near Wee Waa, in NSW.
“I was asked about my aims and goals, and they threw me in the deep end as their farm manager. It was about 400ha of irrigation when I took over, and we developed it, built dams and storage and new fields. Got it up to about 1200ha.”
This would be just the tip of the iceberg for Matt’s farming journey, next travelling north to the Queensland border, managing a 5,500ha cotton farm with a multi-diverse team near Boomi, NSW. Three years there and he would head back down south, taking a farming position with a large feedlotter in southern NSW.
“That was my first gig farming for a feedlotter. I actually got the opportunity to go into feedlot management there too. It was a 45,000hd sheep and 12,000hd cattle feedlot. Australian’s largest multi-species operation. I was 18 months there and then another six months at their Riverina feedlot as Operations Manager.”
“Not long in that position and I was handed a redundancy. I was halfway to the Gulf on holidays when Scotty Braund rings me.”
Scott, Mort & Co’s General Manager of Feedlots, offered Matt the position of Farming Manager across two of the company’s sites west of Toowoomba, Queensland. In 2012, Matt began his next journey with Mort & Co.
“In my ten years at Mort & Co I have seen the driest year since federation on the Darling Downs and I’ve seen the wettest, or maybe second wettest. I’ve certainly lived that line ‘a land of droughts and flooding rains’. It’s presented its challenges, but look, we’ve got there.”
“I have two sons working for me and my father in-law still comes on board on and off. My sons are shaping into very good farmers. I did encourage them to go and chase cattle and do everything that young people need to do. You’re only young for but a minute. When you’re in your mid 40’s it’s a bit late to go chasing cattle, you don’t bounce like you used to.”
Reflecting on ten years at Mort & Co and a lifetime moving with the vagaries of the agricultural industry, it would seem Matt’s only constant is an undeniable passion for his profession and a desire to continually improve his craft.
“As an industry, we need to review how we manage our soils from a fertility basis. Carbon, whether it be for sequestering carbon or just to have healthier soils, it’s the one thing we are depleting the most. There are some very good farmers out there who are managing it really well, but it’s in our industry’s nature to continually seek improvement. Because it is more than just dirt that holds a plant up, it’s the very lifeblood of everything we do.”
“As a whole, ag is a magnificently diverse industry, worldwide. You’ll find a home in it.”