Suited to suc­cess

A pas­sion for the en­vi­ron­ment has taken a wool­grow­ing cou­ple places — in­clud­ing to Italy, where they rubbed shoul­ders with celebri­ties. Roger Han­son re­ports

Tasmanian Country - - NEWS - Pic­ture: MATHEW FAR­RELL

Vanessa and Matt Dun­babin re­cently got to have a peek at where their fine Merino wool ends up – in suits that cost tens of thou­sands of dol­lars each. The cou­ple were in Italy for an awards cer­e­mony for sustainable pro­duce and also vis­ited man­u­fac­tur­ers who use wool from their farm.

THE love of grow­ing su­perfine wool and car­ing for the en­vi­ron­ment are the driv­ing pas­sion for a cou­ple farm­ing on the Forestier Penin­sula in the state’s South-East.

Matt and Vanessa Dun­babin con­sider them­selves the cus­to­di­ans of their 6200ha farm Ban­gor, which in­cludes vast ar­eas of na­tive veg­e­ta­tion and per­ma­nent for­est re­serves as well as 5km of coast­line.

The farm is run­ning 6000 head of sheep and wool from Ban­gor is used in high-end suits.

“Ban­gor is a unique prop­erty with a mix na­tive bush­land and pas­ture. We care for the en­vi­ron­ment and run a vi­able sheep prop­erty at the same time,” Mrs Dun­babin said.

The prop­erty is home to a large num­ber of an­i­mals and birds, in­clud­ing some of Tas­ma­nia’s most pre­cious and iconic species. Mar­su­pial res­i­dents in­clude Tas­ma­nian devils, wal­la­bies, bet­tongs, wom­bats and quolls. There are more than 120 bird species in­clud­ing wedge-tailed ea­gles, sea ea­gles and swift par­rots.

“We love what we do. The pro­tec­tion and sus­tain­abil­ity of this spe­cial place forms the core of the man­age­ment phi­los­o­phy and prac­tice here at Ban­gor.”

The Dun­babins’ ef­forts have re­sulted in be­ing awarded the ti­tle of Aus­tralian farmer of the year.

Re­cently they got to share the spot­light with Hollywood star Cate Blanchett at a pres­ti­gious awards cer­e­mony in Italy, where they re­ceived an eco­log­i­cal stew­ard­ship gong at the Green Car­pet fash­ion awards.

This year’s event at­tracted big names in fash­ion and en­ter­tain­ment at the Teatro alla Scala in Mi­lan. The sustainable fash­ion awards and the EcoAge brand that spon­sors them were cre­ated by ac­tor Colin Firth’s wife Livia Firth.

Mrs Firth vis­ited Ban­gor and was impressed by the Dun­babins’ at­ti­tude to­wards the land and the an­i­mals.

“She was re­ally impressed by our at­ti­tude of be­ing cus­to­di­ans of the land,” Mrs Dun­babin said.

“The Mi­lan ex­pe­ri­ence was ex­cit­ing. It shone a light on Tas­ma­nian wool pro­duc­ers.

“It was great be­ing away but also it re­minds you of how much you ap­pre­ci­ate home,” she said.

For the awards Mrs Dun­babin wore a dress made from Tas­ma­nian wool from Smit­ten Merino.

“We are hope­ful about the fu­ture of fi­bre in the mar­ket and for sustainable farm prac­tices to look af­ter the planet,” she said.

Be­ing in Mi­lan al­lowed the Dun­babins to see where their su­perfine wool ends up.

“One com­pany, Loro Piana, has a range of fab­ric branded Tas­ma­nia, made from su­perfine wool.”

The Dun­babins said Loro Piana tar­geted dis­cern­ing cus­tomers who are pas­sion­ate about na­ture.

They said the com­pany was sell­ing suits made from Tas­ma­nian wool, in­clud­ing from Ban­gor, for EUR20,000 or close to $31,700.

“That’s crazy, we can’t even imag­ine that,” Mr Dun­babin said.

“About half a kilo­gram of wool goes into one of th­ese suits. The wool from one of our sheep could pro­duce enough wool to make two or three suits.”

Wool from Ban­gor Meri­nos ranges from 14 to 16 mi­cron.

The Dun­babins shear three times a year and re­cently fin­ished shear­ing their hoggets.

As well as su­perfine Meri­nos, Ban­gor also runs a flock of Coop­worth and Poll Dorset crosses for prime-lamb pro­duc­tion.

Much of the farm’s na­tive grass­land and bush is lightly grazed by Merino sheep in a man­ner that re­tains the health and di­ver­sity of na­tive grasses, herbs, shrubs and trees.

Mr Dun­babin said it had been a dry spring so far af­ter low rainfall in the au­tumn.

“Wool pro­duc­tion is like any farm­ing, cyclic, and at the end of the

More peo­ple are be­com­ing aware of the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of syn­thetic fi­bres VANESSA DUN­BABIN

day we pro­duce su­perfine wool, but it’s still a com­mod­ity.

“But we know we can pro­duce quality wool, and hope­fully more brands will take an in­ter­est in where their wool comes from, and start to tell the story of the peo­ple and the land who pro­duce it.”

Mrs Dun­babin said the buzz­word at present was fast fash­ion.

“More peo­ple are be­com­ing more aware of the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of syn­thetic fi­bres,” she said.

“Wool fits, it is a nat­u­ral fi­bre and it has a story.”

The land at Ban­gor has been farmed since the 1830s. In the 1890s the Dun­babin fam­ily took over, with Matt the sixth gen­er­a­tion of the fam­ily to run the prop­erty. The farm is laden with his­tory, in­clud­ing Dutch ex­plorer Abel Tas­man land­ing on Ban­gor in 1642.

The first Dun­babin, John, was given a 14-year sen­tence and trans­ported to Van Diemen’s Land for steal­ing a horse in 1830.

The bush­fires in Jan­uary 2013 de­stroyed one third of the prop­erty. From there the Dun­babins di­ver­si­fied to cre­ate a 4ha vine­yard and the Ban­gor Vine­yard Shed.

“We are proud Tas­ma­ni­ans and look for­ward to fur­ther show­cas­ing this area,” Mr Dun­babin said.

IN­SIGHT: Matt and Vanessa Dun­babin of Ban­gor have re­cently re­turned from Italy, where they vis­ited manuf

Pic­tures: MATHEW FAR­RELL

man­u­fac­tur­ers us­ing their su­perfine wool.

SU­PER EF­FORT: From top: Ban­gor Merino wool ranges from 14 to 16 mi­cron; Vanessa and Matt Dun­babin with bales of wool; in­set, ewes with their lambs on the farm in the state’s South-East.

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