Working Around the Plate

James Thompson has transferred his management skills from meat chickens to salad greens as he works around the plate with the production of some of Australia’s finest fresh food.

At Pearcedale on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, James Thompson is overseeing the harvesting of salads and vegetables that grow here in the rich fertile soil. As General Manager of business for Coolibah Herbs it is just one of his responsibilities. “I oversee the operation and corporate affairs of the business from the packing plant to marketing and sales, quality assurance, HR and financial management,” he says, “and report to the directors.”

It is a role James has been in for only a month since answering an advertisement with Agricultural Appointments. “I knew where I wanted to place myself with my skills, attributes and experience, and working with perishables was an area I enjoyed,” he says. “I went through a very professional recruitment process with Howard Wootton at Agricultural Appointments who felt I was a good fit for this role given my background.”

James has come a long way since growing up on a 700 acre farm in Victoria where his family ran cattle, sheep and poultry, and though his early career saw him working in service industries in 2005, the circle closed when he returned to agriculture with family chicken firm Hazeldenes. Being back in agriculture is something of which he is very proud. “I like to promote the clean, green image which is the reality of Australian produce, and the capacity of this country to not only feed its own population safely but also the growing middle-class population of Asian countries,” he says.

So what does James bring to Coolibah Herbs from chickens? “One thing is the experience of working with a family business,” he says, “and another is the whole notion and understanding of dealing with perishable food and getting that product from the farm to the plant, maintaining the integrity of the product in a temperature controlled environment, and ensuring that is maintained through the supply chain to the consumer.”

Agricultural Appointments recognised in James this ability to transfer skills and to bring a fresh perspective to a new business, making him ideally suitable for the role at Coolibah Herbs, though James feels it is just as important to take the time to learn from an employer.  “I said to the Coolibah management that for the first six months I wouldn’t be doing anything,” he laughs, “other than looking and listening and learning. It is critically important to be open to knowledge when you first walk into an organisation and then as time goes on you can slowly impart your own experience.”

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For over 35 years Agricultural Appointments has helped agribusinesses of all types meet the hardest challenge: recruiting the right people. From farm managers to food technologists, winemakers to research scientists and product developers to CEOs, they recruit for roles right across the food supply chain.

“From paddock to plate, we know people: how to find them and make sure they’re right for your role and culture.” Dr Ray Johnson, Agricultural Appointments

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