Like many young leaders in agriculture spearheading successful ventures, Tim Eyes envisioned growth and expansion as the natural next steps for his business. But his experience on the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation’s 2020 TRAIL: emerging leaders program has had a major influence on his vision for a sustainable impact.
“Ever since TRAIL, I’ve reconsidered growth in the business and how healthy it is.” Tim says.
Tim and his partner Hannah founded the Food Farm after spending years working in agriculture as consultants in a range of imperfect farming environments.
“We found a great spot on the NSW central coast to embrace a chemical-free farming model and illustrate how to make small lease blocks viable. We operate through direct marketing, and tell a frank and transparent story,” Tim says.
From selling quarters of beef, producing eggs and raising meat chickens, Tim and Hannah have forged an incredibly successful model that demonstrates how farming on the fringe of large urban communities can be viable and beneficial for the people it feeds and the farmers that care for the land.
Already a board director, and involved in his local community through the Rural Fire Service, it had been “a few years” since Tim had taken part in a program targeting personal and professional development.
“To walk into this space as an adult at this life stage is so beneficial. You have to walk into the room in a whole different way. My thoughts on agriculture in general can be challenging to the sector, so it was a really opportune time to sit in a group of people in rural industries and be challenged by different perspectives,” Tim says.
“My major TRAIL takeaway has been that self-development is perpetual motion … I’m proud of being reflective and flexible, and open to having my mind changed and challenged.”
Returning from the TRAIL experience, Tim discovered that the program had challenged his assumptions about the next steps for his business.
“We were going to double the size of the business and buy a butcher shop,” he says.
“We lease a lot of farms and deal with a lot of people, and not all of these relationships are aligned with the values and vision at the core of our business,” he reflects.
“What TRAIL has given me is the strength and the support network to be honest and say that this is enough for now. My identity as a farmer now has added dimensions, and I want to take the time to find out what my long-term impact can be.
“As direct marketing farmers, we’re easily replaced. If people are really hungry, they’re going to go to Coles.” Tim says.
Through a period of “living and engaging with human beings on a whole new level” throughout the TRAIL program, Tim has embraced “the opportunity to take a deep breath and recalibrate what we are actually trying to achieve.”
And the next step?
“It’s clear to me that telling my story and being honest will be a mainstay of my role as a leader. I’m still passionate about the way the land we live on and surrounds is being treated, and this is more important than simple growth in income.”