In 2009 a group of Banks Peninsula sheep farmers pooled resources in a bid to increase the value of the wool and to strengthen their farming community.
Chris Chamberlain (above left) is chairman of the Banks Peninsula Farms Wool Growers company. He also runs a sheep and beef property with his wife Jacqui near Port Levy on Banks Peninsula. “It was originally started from the farm discussion group we had running on the Peninsula. We were just disillusioned with the price of wool and we decided to be proactive and ask the question, why?”
The group realised it had to take a long term view. The idea was to link with manufacturers and retailers in the international marketplace and to establish long-term supply contracts. It has also established its own brand – Banks Peninsula Farms – and is aligned to Laneve branded wool under the Wools of New Zealand programme.
Richard Barnett (above right) is one of 40 or so shareholders in Banks Peninsula Farms Wool Growers Limited. He farms with his wife Clare across the bay from the Chamberlains. “One of the problems wool growers in general have had is that we’ve been kept very well divided and not badly served, but it’s been in a lot of other people’s interests to keep us rather ignorant of the wool growing, processing and marketing process”.
To set themselves apart from other wool growers, the shareholder farmers must adhere to a strict on farm quality control programme that includes an extra focus on clip preparation, a dip residue test, low pesticide use and a range of other on-farm practices.
A recent initiative has been the creation of designer rugs made entirely from Banks Peninsula wool. Jacqui Gibbs Chamberlain (below) is a painter and was asked do the artwork. "As a group they decided that they wanted to see the product finished in a way that was different from anybody else. So they choose me to design some rugs which was very exciting."
The company proudly says it takes Banks Peninsula wool from the farm to the floor.