WHEN Grahame Abbott started work at the Berry Co-op in 1972, little did he know 42 years later he would retire as the co-operative manager.
Starting as a platform boy at the milk factory under John Bowden, his role included all facets of milk receival from the cans to bulk collection, loading milk onto the rail trucks for transportation to Dairy Farmers in Sydney.
Over the years he worked in a variety of roles, including tanker driver and milk tester, before eventually being the foreman, running the factory.
When the co-op’s factory closed in 1991 and milk was transferred to the Dairy Farmers’ Bomaderry plant, his career took on a new role, moving into the co-op’s rural produce store.
Working alongside Van Carter, he eventually became produce manager and when Allan Fisher retired in 2004 he moved into the role as manager of the co-operative.
“It’s something I certainly never dreamed about all those years ago when I started on the factory floor,” he said.
“It was the last thing on earth I thought would happen, but it has been an incredible and enjoyable journey.”
Mr Abbott will officially retire Monday. He has almost seen the co-op go full circle, with the business set to reopen its own milk processing factory.
“I was hoping that may have happened before I retired, but unfortunately not, but it’s not far off,” he said.
“It will be sad walking out the doors on Monday. There have certainly been lots of changes over the years.
“I think the biggest change I’ve seen was when we stopped processing our own milk and we closed the factory section down.
“But the re-establishment of our own brand with South Coast Milk in 2005 was also a huge occasion and one of the best things the co-operative ever did in producing and marketing its own milk again.
“I’ve seen a lot of changes and there are more to come.”
The Berry Co-operative has six suppliers, producing close to seven million litres a year.
The majority of that product is used for South Coast Milk, with the remainder sold to Murray Goulburn.
The co-op produces a variety of products including full cream, lite, skim and organic milks, yoghurt, both classic and natural, and fresh cream.
“We’ve tasted plenty of success with our products over the years, even at the Sydney Royal Cheese and Dairy Produce Show this year, we took out the Jim Forsyth Perpetual Trophy for champion milk for our whole milk.
“We won three gold and three silver medals. It’s great for a little operation to still be competing with the big boys.”
A “Berry boy” all his life, he has played both rugby league and cricket for the Magpies and in retirement will take a break, including getting a knee replacement, and from there will “play it by ear”.