AFTER 20 years in the free-range egg business, Great Western's Alan and Shelley Green are looking to sell their empire and retire.
Green Eggs is one of the largest free-range egg farms in Victoria. The property is now on the market, with expressions of interest closing on October 9.
Mr Green began his rural career on outback stations in far-west Queensland, before returning to Victoria to marry his sweetheart.
Mr and Mrs Green bought the farm at Great Western after the drought in 1982.
"We were in our 20s and we managed to buy a rundown, undeveloped farm block," Mr Green said.
"It was a small farm, so we both worked off-farm.
"It was our dream to be on the farm by the time we turned 40."
In 1999, the couple came up with the idea for free-ranged eggs and brought about 2000 birds. Today, they run 35,000 birds.
Mr Green said running a poultry business was "totally out of left field" for the couple.
"I was a beef farmer who worked on cattle stations in Queensland - we had no chook history other than backyard birds that everyone has," he said.
But the Greens were visionaries and the business grew over the years with the national demand.
"When we started, free-range eggs made up 1.4 per cent of the national sales - now they make up 46 per cent," Mr Green said.
"We saw it as a market that was going to take off and it grew organically."
The couple wanted to be in control of their business's success.
"We started off by selling to an egg processor, but we quickly knew we would be price takers, not price makers," he said.
"The big aim in setting up the business was to be in charge of our own destiny.
"The greatest part of building Green Eggs was building a business that we could control the bottom line, which is the total opposite to farming.
"In farming, you don't know what you are going to produce until you know what moisture you have."
"Over the years, we have pulled sorghum down from Queensland when the wheat prices were bad - we have always been in control of our input and output.
"It was a hard slog for a while at the start but soon Green Eggs started to gain traction."
The Great Western farm soon grew from two sheds to five, and then seven.
"It went on and we then bought other farms near Lake Fyans and built a state-of-the-art shed there," Mr Green.
Green Eggs sells about 12,500 dozen eggs a week, mainly to a specialist distributor in Melbourne.
"Green Eggs is also sold to a limited number of retailers while participation in up to 11 farmers' market each week has also been very successful in building our brand through customer contact," Mr Green said.
He said he deliberately stayed away from supplying the two principal supermarket chains because of their focus on continually pressing suppliers to reduce their prices.
"But we do supply a number of smaller retail outlets including green grocers and speciality or premium food stores where we have built long trading relationships," he said.
The business currently operates with 12 full-time staff, most of whom are long-term employees from Great Western, Stawell or Ararat.
Green Eggs is also a family business in every sense of the word, with Mr and Mrs Green's son Lachie and his wife Minnie running the property near Lake Fyans.
"The main farm, which is what we are selling, runs 25,000 birds," Mr Green said.
"Lachie runs 10,000 at his farm and we are hoping a prospective buyer will contract his 5000 dozen eggs a week."
Mr Green said the property location at Great Western was ideal.
"Firstly, it is rolling open red gum and box-treed pastoral country, which is ideal for free-range egg production with chicken manure distributed throughout the property," he said.
"The location offers a very high degree of biosecurity for disease control."
Mr Green said it was time for the couple to retire.
"Shelley and I agreed when we started, we would do something else after we reached 60," he said.
"That time has arrived and having created this business with passion and a lot of personal input we feel we will be handing it on to new ownership as a proven, very successful business with a lot of growth ahead.
"We have loved every minute of working with Green Eggs, but the thing with poultry is that it's seven days a week - they lay everyday including Christmas Day and New Years Day, so you are on call all the time.
"We are looking forward to having some breathing space."
Rodwells Ruralco Property selling agent Max Brown believes the sale opportunity will attract interest from people in the egg industry, along with investors.
He said with all the production and marketing systems in place, there would be a good return for the investor.
"The production scale could also be readily increased using the existing facilities, the land area and meeting the unsatisfied market for free-range eggs sold at a premium," he said.
Mr Brown said the sale included all buildings and equipment.
"Alan Green will work with the buyer or new owner for a handover consultancy to provide professional and practical advice for an agree period," he said.
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