Grant is the Vice President of the Casino Beef Week Committee. He is also the owner of Smiths Butchery in Casino. Find out from Grant about why he loves Casino, the challenges he’s faced organising the event over the years and why you’re missing out if you haven’t experienced Beef Week!
Hi Grant, tell me a little bit about yourself
I was born in Casino in 1963, my parents were dairy farmers originally, and progressed into beef in around 1967. I went to school in Casino, and once I left, I got an apprenticeship as a butcher. Some time later I went into partnership with my parents with a butcher’s shop. I’ve still got the butcher’s shop, which I was trying to sell because I’ve been there for 40 years now, and that’s a long time!
The shop has obviously got a good reputation in the area?
We’re only a small business and the only butcher’s shop on the main street in Casino, so I’m proud of that – we’ve outlasted all the others.
Is that a sign of the way the industry is going?
That’s right. Supermarkets and the convenience for people have made it difficult for the family owned butchers now. That’s why we try to sell the best possible meat we can. That’s why I like to use limousin as I believe they produce the best meat.
What do you like to do in your spare time, away from the shop?
In my spare time, which isn’t a lot, I like to play golden oldies rugby for the Casino Crocs, touch footy and Oz Tag a few times a week too. I pulled a hamstring last year, so I’ve had to watch myself and come back steadily! I also love to spend time mucking around with my cattle.
My daughter has just had her first child, and I’ve got another daughter with a baby on the way so it’s a magical time.
What is it you like about Casino and the Northern Rivers?
Normally it rains, which is a good start, given I have lots of cattle. It’s close to the coast, and as I’ve got a daughter who lives on the Gold Coast, so it’s not too far. Going to the beach and enjoying the fresh seafood makes it a good central spot. Even if you want to go out west, it’s not too far either. Casino is a friendly town with good people and that’s why I’ve never wanted to live anywhere else.
What is it about Beef Week that you love?
I like to give something back to the community. Country towns do it pretty tough, so I like to get involved with trying to help bring money into the town and give it a boost.
You need to have a few things happening every year to bring money into the town and Beef Week is one of those. It might not always mean people buy meat off me, but directly or indirectly the businesses who deal with us do very well; particularly those in the hospitality industry.
I enjoy meeting different people and it’s all about trying to turn Beef Week into a major event.
Isn’t Beef Week already a major event?
It is, but I’d like it to be bigger. Something like the Tamworth Country Music Festival would be the inspiration for how I’d like to grow Beef Week. Even if I’m not around, the future Board will hopefully have the drive and direction to build on what’s been started.
We’ve had some good people involved over the years, and we’ve now got a few younger people on board with some fresh ideas to grow the event further. At the same time, even if it doesn’t get any bigger, it is a great festival that promotes beef; which a lot of people love. In this part of Australia as well, we have some of the best beef.
People do say Casino is the Beef Capital of Australia…
That’s right. When people talk about Rockhampton, they do claim they do have a fantastic Beef Festival, but theirs started after ours, once their event organisers came down to study Casino Beef Week and how it worked.
Our Beef Week was started by some business people that got together to help bring some money back into the town. They were pioneers, and we must take our hats off to them for the foresight they had.
How long have you been involved?
This is probably my 11th year. It’s pretty good when you get to work with a great bunch of people. We all get on well, which helps.
What have been some of the challenges during your time?
In 2006 there was a previous committee in charge and they had decided they’d had enough of organising the event, so in 2007 there wasn’t a Beef Week. Getting the event going again in 2008 was probably the biggest challenge, as we were pretty much starting it from nothing. There weren’t many records that were kept either, so that made it really hard. To go from that, to receiving a grant from the NSW government, a few years ago, for $1 million over four years has been fantastic.
What does the main Saturday during Beef Week look like for you?
I start pretty early, usually around 6am and make sure all the unloading is going to plan and the cattle are getting weighed. I like to keep an eye on everything and make sure it’s all running smoothly, which will include setting up the ring for the cattle, with all our sponsors. It’s important that the cattle are organised; so we’ve got the stud cattle in one area and the steers in another – which I like to be involved with coordinating.
As we have subcommittees for different parts of Beef Week, I’m in the cattle section, but we’ll have other committees for the Car Show plus Arts and Crafts for example. The people involved in those different groups do a really good job and know their area well.
What time do you finish on the Saturday?
Once the parade has finished at around 3.30pm, it’s time to kick back and have a couple of beers!
What would you say to those that haven’t been to Beef Week?
I’d definitely encourage them to come along and experience the country lifestyle. We have a Beef Tour, which goes onto a farm which is really interesting. It’s not just about looking at cows, they’ve got trial cropping using different seeds and speakers talking about a range of topics.
Visitors can also have a bit of fun by going to the races and experiencing the Beef Week Cup; which is the biggest race day in Casino as it attracts around 4,000 people.
You can also do a tour of the Northern Rivers Livestock Exchange, which is a $14 million facility – it’s very impressive.
There is also an Earth Day, where there are a variety of speakers talking about agriculture and the trends in that industry.
On Beef Saturday, there’s endless amounts of things you can get up to. You can watch the cattle judging, check out the food stalls and vendors, there are bands playing, the New South Wales state titles in whip cracking, the Mr Beef competition, the rodeo… it’s a full day! There is also entertainment on in the evening from hotels and pubs, so there’s lots to experience.
How long have you been involved with Summerland?
Probably around 13 years now. I know the girls in the branch and they’re always very friendly and accommodating; everyone is fantastic to deal with.
The relationship with Summerland is certainly a lot more personable than what I’ve experienced with other banks. There’s never any hassle and it’s very easy to bank with them, which is what I like. I had my wallet stolen a while back, and the girls at the branch dealt with it very quickly and efficiently for me.
Some people will look at how much interest they’re getting on their money, but that isn’t the deal breaker for me. What’s important to me is how I am treated and looked after; which Summerland do excellently.