Mercury (Hobart) - Magazine - - COVER STORY -

New con­nec­tions are be­ing made that link fab­ric and fash­ion back to spe­cific and of­ten his­toric farms

At Miena at Le­mont, Marie Boa­dle con­tin­ues a 60-year tra­di­tion of farm­ing 50,000 sheep with her fa­ther. Un­til re­cently, she says, most wool grow­ers would sell most of their clip at auc­tion through El­ders in Mel­bourne. But now, with the Ital­ians en­sur­ing they can get enough pre­mium wool for suit­ing fab­rics to keep their mills go­ing, bet­ter prices are be­ing of­fered through the Vitale Bar­beris Canon­ico Wool Ex­cel­lence Club, of which they are one of about 22 farm mem­bers. Boa­dle says they have a con­tract un­til 2019 to sell their wool through New Eng­land Wool to Ital­ian fab­ric man­u­fac­turer Vitale Bar­beris Canon­ico, at be­tween 4 and 10 per cent more than mar­ket val­u­a­tion.

“A lot of peo­ple are try­ing to think of dif­fer­ent ways of mar­ket­ing their prod­uct,” she says. “We have the tra­di­tional Saxon su­perfine wool that’s quite rare. Ital­ians need that wool to make their beau­ti­ful cloth.”

Sixth-gen­er­a­tion Der­went Val­ley farmer Charles Downie is also tar­get­ing the Eu­ro­pean sports­wear mar­ket with the su­perfine wool op­er­a­tion at Glenelg Es­tate near Gretna. Run­ning 16,500 meri­nos pro­duc­ing 60,000kg of wool a year (about 350 bales), they’re hop­ing to sup­ply Nor­we­gian com­pany Devold, one of the world’s old­est out­door brands.

Aus­tralian Wool Net­work’s re­cent ex­pan­sion, from bro­ker­ing to man­u­fac­tur­ing and re­tail, is fo­cus­ing on “pulling the wool through the pipe­line”. They’ve es­tab­lished re­gional grow­ing groups, such as the one on Kan­ga­roo Is­land, which uses swing tags with QR codes linked to videos that tell the story of the wool’s prove­nance di­rect to the cus­tomer.

Tom and Mandy Clarke from Quorn Hall Pas­toral at Camp­bell Town have a long his­tory of grow­ing wool. Last year they were ap­proached by an on-farm wool agent to sell their wool di­rect to the Aus­tralian Wool Net­work for its Merino Snug lux­ury knitwear range.

“We were happy to run with it to see where our prod­uct ended up,” Tom says.

Quorn Hall sent be­tween 10 and 20 bales (an av­er­age bale is 170kg) of fine merino to AWN at a pre­mium price of 100c to 150c a kilo. “If it ends up at 100 bales at 150c above the mar­ket val­u­a­tion, that’s worth do­ing,” Tom says.

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