Tell us about yourself and your farm.
I'm William Jones, I'm 37 years old. I have been farming, in theory, all my life. Our farm is Matarae Station in Central Otago, New Zealand. I was born and bred here and my parents, Ron and Juliet have owned the property for approximately 60 years and are still involved with the running of the farm. I also live here with my wife, Emily and our three boys.
So I ended up here after I met my husband. Well, my husband to be at the time and moved up here just before we got married probably about 12 years ago now and yeah, loved it.
How did your relationship with Smalls Merino x Woolroom Sleepwear come about?
We've teamed up with companies like Smalls Merino, who have huge passion for growing Merino wool. There is so much value in having these connections with people from all over the world who share a passion for our wool. Meeting a couple of Kiwi's from Smalls in England can create real connection between farmer and consumer.
So it's great to work with the likes of Smalls Merino to be work with the raw product and see it go right through to the finished designs. They've hit the same passion and dedication to the fibre as we have had.
The close connection we have is brilliant as it means we can meet people from across the world and know exactly what they're expecting out of the product.
How does having these connections help you with how you farm?
In the last ten years we've really seen our relationships blossom and now we're aiming to work with the consumer extremely closely with regular communication. They love coming to our properties and saying how we actually do it and how we look after the sheep. And can then take that back to the consumer to educate on our practices and where their products come from.
When we get to know our consumers, who they are, what type of product they want, what they actually want from us, we can actually change the way we slightly farm, or we can be more open about how we farm.
EmilySo the close connection is brilliant because we can get means we can meet people from across the world and know exactly what they're expecting out of the product. And so we can do what we can on farm to ensure that the quality is there for them. We have brilliant relationships right through the chain - from us to the wool broker, right through to the companies using our wool. We tend to think of it as a community and family. So we're really appreciate knowing everyone along the way. So we find the ZQ program really important. There's a lot of miscommunication out there on social media and that, and I think it's really important to know that you can buy a brand that's authentic and the trust is there.
Why is traceability and working with ZQ important for you?
When we sell the wool to a company, such as Smalls Merino, we can 100% guaranteed that that wool hasn't been touched between leaving our farm and arriving at the mills in Italy. This means we can control the quality and ethics of the whole process. ZQ is definitely important to us and very important to the consumer. The end consumer can be assured that the wool is coming from an ethical, environmentally friendly and clean place.
It also gives us a voice. It quantifies what we're already doing and provides goals and standards that we can aim for, and then from there we can only improve and enhance.
It's not about reaching these standards and staying the same, it's about change and finding ways to evolve by always coming up with new ideas to make the environment better, animals better, work environment better and make the environment safer.
As you know, being followed right through from grower to retail and doing the right thing is hugely important to us. I mean, we're not farming for ourselves. We're farming for future generations, for our sons and their children. So yeah, we really want them to be able to carry on that legacy. So it's important that emphasizes is sustainable. Our connection to the land is being able to bring up a family here and knowing that every morning you wake up and you're so lucky to live in such a unique and special place and really appreciate working in it every day.
So what does a typical day look like for you?
My life usually looks like getting up around 5 am with the boys. We usually have breakfast with them and then out the door by 6.30am. First thing in the morning is make sure we know what direction everyone who is working for us is going in. Followed by a lot of stock work and a lot of shifting animals. Then there's micron testing the wool and muscle scanning, these are DNA testing technologies. We also get to work planting new grasses crops to feed the animals. The work each day changes dramatically season to season.
So a day in the life of me is usually getting up and making lunches for the team. If they've got a busy day it's important that they well feed. Also getting the two eldest children off to school onto the bus!
The youngest and I will go help on the farm if we need to, working with sheep in the yards or tagging along, shifting the stock. Quite often the afterschool activities wear off, whether it be hockey, rugby, swimming and the kids like to get involved. Then in the evening it's farm admin. That's usually what takes up much of the evening.
How important is the welfare of your sheep for producing quality Merino wool?
Animal welfare is paramount here, we literally spend our lives, making sure the animals are extremely well cared for and looked after, because if we didn't, we would we wouldn't farming. There's a number of aspects to that we must consider, everything from ensuring they have enough shelter, monitoring their health and that they have access to clean drinking water.
We monitor their condition every year, which ensures a beautiful body condition this eliminates any problems further down the line. It's a massive key to growing good quality fibre as important as having a good quality feed.
Would you consider your practices sustainable?
WilliamWe take a lot of steps to make sure the farm's more sustainable. The word sustainable gets thrown out there a lot. How do you quantify what has sustained ability? For us, it's to make sure all the animals well-being, their welfare, water, food and condition are all at the highest level we can produce. Then we look at the environment to make sure that the native species thrive on the property as well as other things within the environment, for example, we have native skinks and geckos. We also want to make sure that the water quality is better going through our property than it was coming into our property. Next we look at the people that came here to work and the people that help us out. They need to be coming to a safe environment and an environment that they enjoy. But yeah, they're the main ones as well as making sure our families are healthy and happy as well.
We keep the farm sustainable by ensuring we have the right animals in right place, the right number of animals to suit the environment. And as William said, monitoring the waterways, ensuring the native vegetation.
We learning to cultivate and increase the number of trees that are native to this area and do biodiversity transects every year to ensure that there is no reduction of the native vegetation.
What's your favourite time of year on the farm?
I don't know if I could pick a favourite time on the farm as the seasons in this environment are extremely dramatic! I do enjoy the winter time to an extent. The environment is very harsh and the sheep just thrive on it. And then I love that sort of early spring time when we're shearing!
EmilyMy favourite time of the year is Spring, seeing the lambs, I guess being a mum, you love that. Seeing the lambs and the kids enjoy the baby animals and feeding them.
We have to ask, do you have a favourite sheep?
I don't really have a favourite sheep, unfortunately! We spend every single day trying to make our sheep look fat, healthy, happy and well-fed as we possibly can.
Well, I do have a favourite sheep! She was an orphaned lamb that we saved and she has become one of the kids favourite pets and lives with us near the house.