Banks Peninsula Wool Growers

July 2010

A group of Banks Peninsula farmers work together to improve their returns for wool

Banks Peninsula Wool Growers are a group of 19 BP farmers united in a desire to grow the value of their strong wool.

In 1990 Mark Shadbolt and group of farmers in the Southern Bays Discussion Group got together on a regular basis to talk farming. Over the years it became clear that to increase the price of their wool they needed to work together. In 2006 the group decided to explore options to raise wool returns. In 2009 they formed the Banks Peninsula Wool Growers Ltd to pool resources and start getting things happening in the marketplace.

They wanted to do that - not only to increase the value of the wool but also strengthen their farming community and uphold farm practices that would ensure farming on the peninsula would stay viable.

The group realised they had to take a long term view. The aim was to try and grow profits over a 3 to 5 year time frame. The idea was to link with manufacturers and retailers in the international marketplace and to establish long-term supply contracts.

Mark says they are already making things happening. Theyve got relationships with companies in the US and Europe.

The groundwork to get there has involved getting the quality of what they produce recognised. Theyve used Wool Partners to help with that. They are using Wool Partners Integrity Programme as a basis for this as well as adding their own QA programme.

Theyve also established their own brand Banks Peninsula Farms as a selling point for themselves and their region.

Wool Partners is one of two NZ companies marketing wool offshore. Wool Partners is the NZ marketing company jointly owned by PGG Wrightson and the farmer co-op Wool Grower Holdings. The company aims to take NZ wool from the farm to the floor. BPF have lined up with Wool partners new brand Laneve which has sustainability, traceability and environmental standards as key parts of the brand. BPF have lined up with Wool Partners because they already have established international contacts.

The other rival wool marketing company is Elders Primary Wool a joint venture between Elders and the grower group Primary Wool Co-op. Elders has joined up with some US retailers called IDG with a Just Shorn brand. Elders have also some contacts with Romney NZ and the Nepalese rug story we looked at a few years back.

Both Elders and Wool partners aim to sign exclusive supply deals with farmers. Theres a rumour that the two groups are talking about a merger. But Mark Shadbolt says it is some way off.

The farmers believe they have wool that sets them apart. They say it is high quality. Because of weather, soil and farm practise they believe they have a particularly bright strong and white wool. Their fibre is tested by Laneve, but they also set themselves further standards.

They have an extra focus on clip preparation, a dip residue test, low pesticide use and a range of other on-farm practises that they believe set them apart.

Other selling points for the BPF brand include:

- Distinct location, free range, sustainable, extensive farming operation, QA , stable genetic base, stable farming system, multi-generational farm.

- End consumers will be able to pinpoint the farm their carpet was grown on they do not own the traceable fibre that Elders have but instead are using a code which stays with each fleece.

- The farmers also believe that in future there will be opportunities for other BP products to access the BPF brand as well.

BPF want more growers to come on board. They are also in general support of the Wool Partners guideline:

- unify the growers

- consolidate the clip

- collaborate with industry

- innovate in the market.

They are actively seeking outside funding to move themselves forward.

The problem is that in the US only 3% of the carpets are wool. Sustainability is a word that only registers with the affluent in New York and on the northwest coast of US.

Mark Shadbolt is a fifth generation farmer on this land. He farmed it with his Dad until he retired at age 88. Now Mark and his wife farm the 2,000 acres which overlooks Akaroa Harbour.

The farm still has blocks of native bush and there are crystal clear natural springs throughout, providing water for animals and people alike.

The farm runs from sea level to about 2,200 feet, which makes it steep hill country, and the tops of the hills are often dusted with snow for a couple of weeks in the winter. They run deer, sheep and cattle together, which we find helps with pasture management and better feed utilization.