"My passion and interest in farming has existed since I was a young boy growing up in Sicily. I lived in the small town of Mussomeli with my parents, three sisters and my brother, on a wheat and dairy farm which was run by my father. But, when I was just nine, my father sadly passed away. The years that followed were hard – I was too young to take over the family business and soon we ended up losing everything, from our house to the farm, and debts started to grow and grow.
Ten years later, when I was 19, my brother and I travelled to England to find work. And did we work! In four years we never had a day off, working as waiters in restaurants in London until the debts were paid and we could be happy knowing our family name was cleared.
My brother then left and returned to Sicily, but I decided to stay on in London. I ended up staying for nine years in total, until I was 28, before returning to Sicily to marry. But I still felt like I needed to find whatever it was I was looking for. So in 1970, as a young married couple, my wife and I travelled to Australia. I didn't know what exactly I wanted to do, but there was always one important thing on my mind. My father had built his business from nothing, we had everything and we lost everything. I wanted to build it all again!
For four years I worked in just about every job there was, working as a waiter in the evenings and taking part-time jobs in the day. At one of the restaurants I worked at in Parramatta, NSW, my boss had a farm. He used to grow produce on his farm to cook and serve in the restaurant and one of the things he grew were ducks. But my boss produced so many ducks, far too many to serve in the restaurant, the entire freezer was soon packed to the brim.
So the boss came to me and said, ‘Pepe, I would like you to sell my ducks!'
We had many negotiations, the boss only wanted me to take 10% of the sales, I wanted to buy the ducks from him and sell them on. We argued and argued and eventually he backed down, and off I went to sell the ducks.
I remember my first sale. It was to a restaurant in Concord, NSW, called Liu Rose (which is still there today!) I sold the ducks for double what I'd brought them for. It was one of the most exciting moments of my life.
I decided then and there to start growing and selling my own ducks. I found a man who had 22 ducks and four drakes, so I brought them all.
There was one problem though; I knew little about caring and producing ducks! So I packed my bags and flew to America, travelling from one side of the country to the other and stopping at every duck farm I could find to learn everything I needed to know. One month later, full of duck farming knowledge, I was ready to begin my new journey back home.
When I returned I leased a four acre farm and brought a little wooden incubator, a manual one. Every two hours I would get up and go to the incubator and turn the eggs. It was such a challenge and hard work, but I loved it. I brought myself an old Ford van and soon enough my ducks were selling to restaurants all over NSW. That was 1976 and the beginning of Pepe's Ducks.
The following year I brought my own property in Quakers Hill, NSW, and the business took off. I hired staff and as the years went on the farm grew and grew.
Now it's one of the biggest producers of ducks in Australia and I couldn't be more proud.
Ducks and the duck farm were my dream and I'm honoured to be a part of this industry. It's been nearly forty years since my first duck egg hatched and what a wonderful trip it has been. Long may it continue!'