Emmetts lends a helping hand

By: Anna Game-Lopata

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John Deere supplier Emmetts is standing with fire victims in South Australia’s mid north where the purchase of six new dealerships has made it the company’s home turf. ANNA GAME-LOPATA writes.

Emmetts lends a helping hand
From left: Emmetts Managing Director Peter Emmett, John Deere Australia NZ Managing Director Peter Wanckel Emmetts Group Sales Operation Manager Asher Kinsman, Emmetts Human Resource Manager, Penny Emmett and John Deere Australia NZ Division Sales Manager Kel Davison.

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Victorian-based John Deere broadacre machinery dealer Emmetts was on the way to visit its newly acquired business heartland in Roseworthy, South Australia when a devastating fire ripped through the region.

The fire, which started at Pinery in South Australia’s mid-north burned 50 kilometres in just four hours.

It took three days to contain, destroying about 85,000 hectares, 87 homes and thousands livestock. Ninety people were hospitalised that day and two lost their lives. 

In the aftermath, media reports say insurance claims worth more than $61 million have been received with the damage bill sure to go higher.

As well as the homes lost, more than 160 other buildings were destroyed along with dozens of vehicles and pieces of farm machinery.

Crop and stock losses were significant with 50,000 chickens killed on just one property.


Words of compassion

On that fateful Wednesday, the Emmetts people, among them Managing Director Peter Emmett, his daughter Penny and right hand man Group Sales Operation Manager Asher Kinsman were stranded in Tanunda as the roads were closed.

But being no stranger to the often harsh reality of rural life, the team immediately reached out to the local fire victims.

"Today Emmetts joins the rest of the Australian community in observing the aftermath of a devastating bush and cropland fires that started to burn north of Adelaide yesterday afternoon," Peter posted to Facebook. 

"We understand that two people have perished in the fires and many more Emergency Services crew and members of the community have been injured helping to defend properties, homes and lives. 

"Words are never adequate to express the shock and grief we share with the family and friends of those affected, including the many individuals connected with our Roseworthy branch.

"At times like these, I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on those lives that are at the centre of this devastation. 

"If there is anything Emmetts can do for members of our community, we would like to help in any way we can," Peter adds.

Penny And Peter Emmetts
Peter Emmett believes in upholding the country values always part of his family’s business culture. Daughter Penny the HR Manager for Emmetts joins him in a visit to the company’s newly acquired Roseworthy branch to show support for the local community affected by fires. 

"We know a lot of our customers have been affected in many ways and we will work with them by supplying machinery to assist in their clean-up operations and to harvest any remaining crops.

"I would also like to acknowledge the many Emmetts employees that form part of the Emergency Services crews.

"It makes me proud to know that our staff are volunteering and working tirelessly to flight these blazes, providing much required relief to those in need."


Helping hand

True to their word, Emmetts sent their truck to cart hay into the devastated areas and with the help of John Deere, organised the donation of bale wrap for the bales, along with mowers to support local fundraising relief events.

But Peter, whose father started the Emmetts business in the tiny Victorian community of Rupanyup a year before he was born in 1958, says he’d like to do more.

"There’s a lot of pain out there still," he tells FFM. "And we understand their pain."

Emmetts John Deere Mowers
Emmetts has so far donated a John Deere rider mower and 4 push mowers to raise money for local bush fire relief events in the affected communities. 

 While the six new Emmetts dealerships in Kadina, Roseworthy, Renmark, Pinnaroo Murray Bridge and Kangaroo Island acquired from Rosenberg Machinery Group Holdings (RMGH) in mid-October this year were not damaged, Peter says it had been touch and go at Roseworthy.

"We were pretty lucky, because there was a wind change 15 minutes prior to the fire going right through Roseworthy," he relates.

"Roseworthy missed most of it. Our branch was evacuated, but if that wind change hadn’t happened we could have conceivably lost a lot of property. We feel lucky and are happy to help out."

Peter adds however that many Emmetts staff were affected.

"Some of our people had fire go through their properties, losing fences and crops but no buildings," he says.

"Our Roseworthy branch manager says his neighbours were burned out and he had to drive through the fire front to protect his house and save his cattle. Luckily he was able to move his stock out into a yard prior to the fire coming.

"So there were some really heroic stories, a lot of our people are CFS volunteers. They fought fires that day and are still contributing to the mop up."


Family business

Always a family business, Emmetts began in a small shoe shop set up in Rupanyup by Peter’s dad Jack who was a contract hay baler from Gippsland.

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The business gradually grew and by the time of his death in 1998 it was on solid foundations incorporating three dealerships in Horsham, Rupanyup and Warracknabeal.

"We started up the Swan Hill branch in 2000 and we’ve been looking at growing the business ever since then," Peter explains.

Peter says the purchase the RMGH dealerships took 27 months to finalise, but he had quickly recognised the opportunity would be a good fit for the existing business and deliver Emmetts, a predominantly dryland Victorian Wimmera and Mallee business, with exposure to irrigated viticulture, horticulture etc, along with a climatically diverse broad acre cropping area.

"Size gives us the ability to stock a broader range of products, in some instances at better pricing, so we should be able to be more competitive in the market place," Peter says.

"But we’ll also aim to encourage farmers to pre-order large broad-acre equipment in order to manage timely delivery and cash flow for our farming customers.

Emmetts John Deere 2
Emmetts now presides over 10 John Deere dealerships, putting the company up there with the country’s largest. 

 "In the smaller ag market segment it’s often a more impromptu type of purchase and we can now keep this smaller line of stock on hand which we weren’t able to do in Victoria prior to the buyout."

As an innovative company, Peter asserts Emmetts likes to grab new ideas and run with them, which was a further key driver for adding the RMGH businesses to the group.

"We can now offer more integrated solutions services," he says. "For example one of the things we’re currently doing is flying drones above crops and collecting plant growth data.  

"We can convert this data to information in the form of shape file maps overnight, then with the assistance of local agronomists translate this into knowledge so we can help farmers create better crops now and into the future.


Stepping up

With the addition of the six dealerships in South Australia the Emmetts business will now boast ten in total including the four in Victoria.

"I think acquisition is the way it’s going to go in agriculture," Peter predicts. "You need to be fairly large to be able to accommodate what is a very money-hungry business. You have to have financial strength to be able to manage new and used stock and survive."

In addition, Peter says the acquisition will allow the employment of people with a more diverse and highly developed range of skills who will add value to Emmetts’ farming clients.

Emmetts Dealership
Emmetts hopes the acquisition of RMGH will allow the employment of people with more a diverse and highly developed range of skills.

Initially, he says the business will remain much the same, but he plans to gradually develop RMGH’s traditional branch structure into a more modern departmental model providing higher skills in branch, for sales, service, parts and innovative solutions services.

 "Ideally we’d like to have productive years in both Victoria and South Australia; however reality often means that doesn’t occur as witnessed with the poor finish to crops in Victoria this year," Peter says.

"I think the climatic diversity we have achieved with this acquisition will make us a stronger company in the end. It’s an exciting time for us and we’re looking forward to all the challenges and we really want to make it work."


*Emmetts and John Deere Australia wish to offer condolences and support to all those with losses in the recent Barossa Valley fire, and especially to the families of those who lost their lives. One of these was Pinery farmer Allan Tiller. A loyal John Deere customer, Allan was one of the first in the region to introduce auto-steer and is remembered for his huge community spirit.

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