When the opportunity arose to travel to New Zealand as a family to visit the source of our wool we couldn't pass it up. Sourcing the highest quality Merino wool fibre for our garments has been our mission since we launched Wee Woollies more than 5 years ago. It was important for us to know we were using fabric of the highest quality, and that the processes involved in producing it were both safe for the sheep and the environment.
On our quest to source the most ethical, sustainable fibre we discovered ZQ Merino, launched by The New Zealand Merino Company: "to help people understand that their textile choices could be a reflection of their beliefs – you are what you wear – and that Merino, done the right way, was a smart and sustainable choice." Growers show their commitment to the ZQ Merino ethos by meeting the highest standards in the areas of animal welfare, environmental care, and social sustainability, along with delivering premium quality “fit for purpose” fibre.
It's easy to feel good about what you do when you know the foundation for your business reflects your values, but we needed to see it for ourselves! So we set off on a woolly adventure. After two glorious weeks of sailing with my parents in the Bay Of Islands, we headed to the South Island to Merino country.
Boat life in the Bay of Islands, NZ.
Urupukapuka Island. A sheep's paradise!
Our first stop: The New Zealand Merino Co. headquarters in Christchurch to learn more about the innovation and dedication behind New Zealand's Merino wool industry. In true Kiwi style we were greeted with open arms and tremendous enthusiasm for our brand. With the backing and support from such a forward-thinking, environmentally responsible company, who partners with the world's leading brands, we left our meeting recharged and inspired wondering where this journey will take us next. It was absolute validation of what we do and why we do it.
At the New Zealand Merino Company Headquarters in Christchurch, NZ
After a long journey south though the pouring rain and the remnants of a tropical cyclone we finally made it to New Zealand's Southern high country to the town of Middlemarch in the stunning Central Otago region, famous for its Merino sheep. We could only see a a few feet in front of us the rain was so heavy and had no idea what our surroundings looked like, "worst summer on record" our hosts told us - lucky us! Needless to say, when the sky cleared the scenery was breathtaking. Our first day we toured the farm with our fabulous hosts Lynnore and Andrew. They own and operate 7000 acres of land and at various times throughout the year manage 6000 Merino and cross breed sheep for the wool market.
Lynnore and one of her Huntaway dogs working the flock, no matter what the weather. Middlemarch, NZ.
These NZ Heading Dogs are truly brilliant. Animal and human synergy at work.
Flourishing crops in a stress - free environment nourish healthy, happy Merino Sheep who in turn produce high quality fleece - it's complex science at work and truly incredible to see, especially for us city folk. The Merinos graze the higher, dry land and seek shade and shelter under the giant rocks and boulders. The ewes birth their lambs under these rocks; the perfect natural habitat for Merinos - with extreme ranges in temperature and weather conditions and an abundance of grass varieties for them to feed on year round producing the best wool fibre perfected by nature.
Where the Merinos roam. Central Otago, NZ
Watching the process at work was awe-inspiring as Lynnore and Andrew worked together with their dogs to move the sheep from paddock to enclosed pens for "drenching" (to control internal parasites) and then out to another paddock. Their experience as farmers and wool experts runs deep, with a lifetime of farming and accreditations in dog training and wool classing and much more. Visiting the wool shed and feeling and analyzing the wool up close was, to me, like coming full circle. Here we were with our three little inspirations putting our hands in the very raw fibre which will eventually become our garments.
Bringing the sheep in for "drenching" to control internal parasites.
Filip and the kids helping get the job done.
In the wool shed. Lynnore explaining micron count and fibre strength.
Every part of our "on farm" experience blew us away... the kids actually cried when we left, so did we(almost). It could have been the farewell to the litter of puppies, or Ellie and her pony. And for us, home to the world's best Pinot Noir. Well that, and the sheep of course ;)
A final (teary) farewell to Ellie(the farmers' daughter) and Comet in a paradise like no other. Outside our cottage, Middlemarch. NZ
If you have any questions about our adventures in Merino country, please get in touch! firstname.lastname@example.org