Special feature: Graham Greer

Long-time RCNZ member (and board member) Graham Greer received the prestigious RCNZ Life Member award

David Kean, Clinton Carroll, Graham Greer, and Andrew Olsen

The Marton agricultural contractor has spent the last 40 years witnessing the many developments and revolutions that have shaped the industry we see today — and has enjoyed the bulk of it.

"When I started in the industry, we drove Land Rovers and folded the 10- to 12-metre spray booms out manually," Graham says.

"We drove to a speedo and a pressure gauge. Things have moved on considerably, and I have embraced and enjoyed the changes."

Graham was brought up on a farm in the Manawatu with his father working as a hay and silage contractor. He himself worked on farms for some time, before driving diggers and then moving into a contracting role at Farm Chemical Supplies at aged 30. After 20 years in that role, Graham decided he wanted to go out on his own and established Greer Groundspraying Ltd in 2002.

Based in Marton, and servicing the wider Manawatu area, Greer Groundspraying started with one self-propelled sprayer.

"It was the first-of-its-kind in the district," Graham says, "and I slowly built the business up from there."

Team work is part of the success of Greer Groundspraying

In the third year, Graham’s middle son came and worked for him as things got a little busier, with Graham purchasing his second machine in around 2005.  

The business continued to grow over the next few years, with Graham’s youngest son also coming home from overseas in around 2013 to join the team.

Today, the business has seven machines, and in addition to Graham and his two sons, a fourth staff member has been with them for eight years.

"He started with us as a young fella and he has sort of morphed into the business and then two years ago, we employed another full-time chemical applicator," Graham says.

The business has grown organically, with little to no advertising.

Graham says the main point of difference between Greer Groundspraying and other companies is that they have both trucks and self-propelling machines, so can work with a larger variety of crops and taller crops, as well.

"With the self-propelling machines, there’s more ground clearance."

The crop profile they work with has also changed over time.

"Originally I was spraying a lot of potato crops, but since then the potato cropping area in the region has declined," Graham says. "I haven’t sprayed any potatoes for the past five years."

Crops such as rapeseed oil have come and gone, but the stalwarts like maize, barley, wheat, brassicas, fodder beet, and pasture maintenance are here to stay.

"I used to do maintenance sprays on thistles and other weeds, but now farmers have chicory, plantain, fodder beet…it’s a mixed bag," Graham says. The business has work year-round, with the very busy period falling between September and the end of February. The rest of the year "ticks away" nicely, Graham says.

Graham has been a member of New Zealand’s rural contracting community since the 1980s when he joined the chemical application section of the organisation.

When Rural Contractors NZ was formed in 1995, Graham became involved early on, being elected to the Board. He’s currently sitting on the Board for the second time, having done so for the past five years.

A line-up of the Greer Groundspraying fleet

Although RCNZ was primarily formed to be an advocate for rural contractors in New Zealand, Graham says the benefits of belonging to the association go far beyond that.

"I’ve made a lot of friendships, which has been the biggest benefit," he says. "Being part of RCNZ has also been helpful to stay in touch with the legislation, rules, and regulations that
are required, particularly with chemical spray requirements."

Receiving the life membership from RCNZ certainly marks a special moment in his contracting career.

"I couldn’t believe it, to be fair," he says. "It brought tears to my eyes. To help give back to an industry that has given me so much is a pleasure."

Graham says the industry has changed a lot over the years he has been a part
of it.

"We first got computers in the 1990s, which controlled the spray rate," he says.

"We then moved onto using bigger trucks, replacing the Land Rovers with six-tonne Isuzu or Mitsubishi trucks, which had the capability to carry more water. Hydraulic booms were also introduced around this time. Now, we have GPS, section control, and auto-steer; the technology has become quite sophisticated. For example, we can use section control to ensure a paddock with angled sections is not overlapped.

"We also use TracMap to ensure the correct paddocks on a farm are sprayed, and the billing information is sent directly back to our office and into our Xero accounting software."   

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