After more than 30 years in the stock feed industry, Cheryl and Bill Fife have weathered drought, deluge and everything in between. Now they are about to turn in their keys and shut the door on Fife's Stock Feeds - a business that has supported farmers for decades.
Mr Fife started what would become his lifelong career in 1971 at 21 years old. He bought his first truck and "started in earnest trading hay and grain". Little did he know this endeavor would become a cornerstone of rural life in the region.
For the hard-worker an "entrepreneurial drive" and a "passion for trucks and machinery" led him to the industry.
He started trading in the Lachlan Valley and "the whole thing just grew and grew from there".
Mr and Mrs Fife have been together from the very start, with "humble beginnings" on the family farm.
Mr Fife formed a partnership with his brother John and his father Lionel. Initially, they grew commercial quantities of hay on the farm and cut it into chaff.
For the entrepreneurs the business, including the farm, kept growing until they bought and moved into the current premises on Knox street in 1994.
In 2000 Mr and Mrs Fife became fully responsible for the operation of the business.
After decades of hard work most people would look forward to retirement, but not Mr and Mrs Fife. The two adamantly avoid the 'R-word' and insist they are simply "changing direction".
Travelling across Australia is not on the cards, after decades of interstate trucking, the pair look forward to spending time at home.
"We enjoy very much living on the farm. We're lucky that it has a lovely garden, even though we're not gardeners, we just enjoy the fruits of somebody else's labour," Mrs Fife said.
"We're going to sort of turn over a new leaf there so to speak."
Mr Fife will not stray too far from the paddock with plans to feedlot cattle. He said he "really enjoys that side of things".
"It will be pleasing to not to have to travel those big distances anymore," Mr Fife said.
The business employed a full time truck driver in 2000 but Mr Fife and his brother were always heavily involved with truck driving.
The pair will retain and lease out the current premises.
Mr Fife described his wife's vision of her life after the closure of the business:
"Cheryl's ideal life would be living in a small cottage in a village just out of town, where it's quiet. She would nurse the cat on her lap, read, read, and read, while watching the foot traffic walk past."
The couple put their success down to three key points: Customer service, hard-working and loyal staff, and good relationships with producers.
Mr Fife said that the business' success was "thanks to our staff, who are hard working and long serving. Many have worked with us for years and years".
For Mr Fife the most rewarding part of the business was working with his two sons, Mac and Luke.
William Luke Fife, known as Luke, died suddenly in 2018 at 36-years-old.
Mr Fife said both his sons worked "for a good number of years in the business, that was very rewarding".
Mac continues to be a stalwart worker at Fife's Stock Feeds and a cornerstone of the business.
Listen to Bill Fife reflect on the 1980 to 1984 drought. Story continues below.
Mr and Mrs Fife have helped countless people over the years, particularly in times of drought.
Mrs Fife remembered the 2000 to 2010 drought and the impact on the community. She said by sourcing feed and extending credit she "felt they were helping people through a difficult time".
"We received on many occasions, sincere thanks for that," she said.
Mr Fife has built strong relationships with producers across the country and credits them with the longevity of the business.
"The growers and producers have treated me so well and with loyalty. They say: Bill you tell us how much product you want and we'll hold on to it for you," he said.
"The availability of product has been a big challenge at different times over the the droughts.
"There were times that we had to source product from Western Australia. Product at times was practically unobtainable."
Mr Fife recalled a recent business record which reflected current times of plenty.
On March 29, 2021 he transported a record load of small lucerne bales, a total of 1235, on a single truck from 'Canimbla' in Cowra.
On June 30 Fife's Stock Feeds will hold a closing down sale.
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