Ryan Shadbolt: Growing an accomplished family business
Name: Ryan Shadbolt
Location: Beverford, VIC
Works: Scotties Point Farms
Grows: Pumpkin, beetroot, broccoli and onions
How did you first become involved in the vegetable industry?
My family has always been in the vegetable industry. My grandfather started our farm in the 1960s, and it has been in the family ever since. I grew up as a little farm kid who loved getting out into the paddock with dad and helping from a young age. My parents have some photos of me when I was only about six years old out on the farm in my gumboots helping cut broccoli – this is one of my first memories of working on the farm.
I was never very interested in school and decided to leave at the age of 16 to start my apprenticeship in the family business. After finishing that, I worked for another three years before moving away to Melbourne to race motocross at a high level. While I was there, I worked in the construction industry, which taught me lots of different new skills but also made me very keen to get back to the farm.
I’ve been back on the farm for two years now and am enjoying taking on more responsibility as time goes on.
What is your role in the business? And what are your responsibilities connected to your role?
My role in the business is to work alongside my dad, Peter, and older brother Jake, to manage everything from planting to packing. I really enjoy the hands-on, practical side of the farm.
I am a Production Manager – this means I’m responsible for a lot of the spraying, fertilising, ground preparation, irrigating and organising workers. Because we grow a variety of vegetables, my jobs vary throughout the year, but it also keeps things interesting and exciting.
What are the biggest challenges you face working in the industry, and how do you overcome them?
I find the biggest challenge in farming is the problem solving that is needed to make things work in different situations every day; whether it’s fixing breakdowns, bad weather, or just thinking and planning ahead.
I find the best way to deal with this is to break each problem down into smaller things and just get in and get it done. Things normally work out, and we try and remember that they are only veggies!
Where do you receive your on-farm practice advice and information from?
Most of my advice and training has come from my dad – he also grew up on the farm and has many years of experience.
Vegetable farming is something that can only be learnt over time, and as I take on more responsibility on the farm, he has been super helpful with helping me make decisions every day and answer any questions I may have. We also have access to an agronomist who we look to for advice and information on crop health, fertilisers and chemical recommendations.
"In the last few years, we have been trialling different cover crops and strip till sowing some of our vegetable crops with some promising results so far."
What new innovations, research and/or practices has your business implemented recently? What are you doing differently to other growing operations?
We are always trying to research new technologies and innovations that we can use to help the way we do things on-farm. We try to run our business with as little staff as possible, using machines to do as much as we can to maximise efficiency and make life easier.
In the last few years, we have been trialling different cover crops and strip till sowing some of our vegetable crops with some promising results so far. In our broccoli and pumpkin crops, we have been able to eliminate 3-4 passes in ground preparation while also being able to reduce the amount of water and herbicides needed over the crop’s lifespan.
What do you both enjoy most about working in the vegetable industry, and how do you maintain your enthusiasm?
I like that no two days are the same on the farm. We grow a handful of different crops, so it gives us a good variety of jobs to keep things interesting. I take a lot of pride in what I do and love the satisfaction of seeing the truck roll out the front gate with high quality fresh produce.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I’d like to see my brother and myself taking on more responsibility from our dad as he slows down on the practical side of the business. I would love to see the farm remain in our family for generations to come, so I want to continue to build and grow it sustainably.
We are big believers in creating a good work/life balance, so we don’t necessarily want to grow the business any bigger than it is right now – but want to make sure that we are maximising our efficiency and always exploring new possibilities.
How do you think more young people could be encouraged to study and take up jobs in the vegetable industry?
Studying horticulture enables young growers to upskill and brings new knowledge to their farm and helping it to evolve. The vegetable industry is constantly changing, and its future is looking bright for the next generation. There are plenty of opportunities right now in a wide variety of roles!
This grower profile first appeared in the leading magazine for the Australian vegetable industry, Vegetables Australia. If you’d like to subscribe to receive a new edition of Vegetables Australia in your mailbox every three months, use our online subscription form!
Photography credit: Caroline Ellis.