It’s a still winter's morning and the fog has engulfed Woko Station near Gloucester in NSW, the sound of the water trickling through the property’s creek that divides the station is only intermittently interrupted by the bellows of the cattle grazing in the paddocks nearby.
The purr of a diesel engine and the headlights cut through the fog, ‘the kids’ have made the trip this morning from their home in Port Stephens, an area revered as one of the finest holiday destinations on the NSW coast. Only for the Mackenzie family, Port Stephens has been home since 1884, where Robert’s Grandfather Archie was raised by his two Aunties who with their support would begin their cattle operation.
134 years on and fifth-generation farmers, Jack and James Mackenzie are beginning to write the next chapter for Macka’s Australian Black Angus Beef alongside their father Robert, and Grandfather Bruce. With the next generation coming into the business Robert knew that things had to be different, “the next generation has fresh ideas, and they can be a bit more demanding than my generation” he winks. It’s just another page in the history book, for a business that has seen plenty of change, enduring war, drought, flood and fire on multiple occasions. Despite the setbacks, there’s an unwavering commitment “to continue doing the best by our animals, by our people and by the environment”.
In just a few short years since returning home full time, the boys have embraced the rigours of farming in a changing climate. The drought of 2019 and 2020 wrapped its wretched arms around their aggregation of properties where the days of carting feed and water to the cattle turned into months, only to be dealt another blow as the Black Summer Fires engulfed the hills surrounding Woko Station.
“It certainly opened up our eyes as to what we need to do to drought-proof ourselves in the future. We’re more prepared now because it was so confronting”
The smoko break is more of a swift pit-stop as the family huddle around the kitchen table with their external marketing team. Critiquing the finer details and design of the next generation branded boxed beef products that will make their way to customers right across the globe.
When it comes to marketing, it doesn’t stop at their beef, you may have seen Robert’s passion across many social platforms, he takes an active stance on not just promoting his business but supporting the people and organisations that are involved in the red meat sector, “I love the industry, I love Australia and I think if more of us work together and promote our industry then it supports Australian beef on the world stage”.
The whole family and their workers move to process the cattle in the yards, dressed in their branded RB Sellars workwear, it’s obvious that pride isn’t just a buzzword for the Mackenzie’s. Like an artwork, each property showcases its uniqueness from the entrance, Jack reflects that it’s something that his dad started “Pride starts at the front gate for us, we want our customers to have that experience with us and that goes back to what happens in the paddock”. For the kid that grew up running between the cows, it was a lightbulb moment one day while out in the paddock, that everything they do can be shared with their customers to build that relationship and connect them to the story.
Speaking with strong conviction and energy, it could be easy to think this is a young business, so what is it that keeps the flame burning and what does the future look like for Mackas?
“We’ll continue to make sure our people, our cattle and the health of our environment is front of mind”
What stands out about the Mackenzie’s, it’s about something bigger than themselves. Robert is humble about their accomplishments and his honesty is as straight as an arrow, “We’re not the biggest or the best beef farmers in Australia, and we don’t expect to be. But, we try our hardest and we put our heart, soul and passion into everything we do”.
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