On my second day of visiting wool farms, I got the chance to get up close and personal to the sheep. We first visited a farm near Wellington, and I had a lovely time discussing our challenges in wool sourcing with the farm owners.
Coming into this trip, I didn't realize that the farms were family-run businesses, often passed down through several generations of farmers. At the first farm, we were warmly greeted by the farmer, his wife and their two adorable children. The farmer's father, who also lived on the property, also joined us, but his wife was off playing bridge with her friends.
We shared coffee and a very delicious cake, discussed issues like sustainable farming, wool prices, yarn quality and animal welfare. Then, we drove off and chased the ewes from one paddock to another before heading off to the shed where the rams were being kept for grooming (in advance of tomorrow's ram sale). In the shed, I got the chance to feel the wool, touch the sheep and enjoy the lovely aroma of a mob of sheep. Let's also mention that my shoes will not be making the journey back to Boston with me.
We then broke for a very nice lunch, prepared by the farmer's wife, and we were off to the next farm where I was able to get my hands on some freshly shorn wool, to examine the differences between this sustainably raised sheep and conventional wool.
The people I've met have been so welcoming and open and generous that I feel very lucky to have spent time with them. For each of the three farms I've visited, it's clearly a family affair with wives and kids contributing to the overall well-being of the farm. It's actually a very idyllic lifestyle and one that's much simpler than the faster-paced city life I'm used to. At one farm, the farmer was marveling at how incredible my host's BlackBerry seemed!
When we discuss wool and garments at work, we really don't discuss the human element of the farmers who toil away day after day and whose entire livelihoods depend on raising high quality sheep. This trip has brought a whole new dimension to my understanding of the supply chain.