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Beyond the Bale : December 2014
ON FARM 29 EPISODE 4 – CULTIVATING THE LAND Richard and Jenny Weatherly – 'Connewarran', Mortlake, Victoria. Over the years, Richard and Jenny Weatherly have repaired a relatively degraded piece of land to produce a thriving Merino wool-growing farm, built on respect for the land and its natural inhabitants. “We have to learn to understand the environment and that’s what we’ve been trying to do here,” explains Jenny. “We live within it.” For Jenny, the importance of the environment has always been at the forefront of her mind. The couple established one and a half million trees and added pastures, wetlands and drainage. Working with their son and business manager, Hamish, the couple has delighted in Connewarran’s gradual evolution over time, revealing ecological riches and bringing great pleasure to many. “It’s a bit like coming to the end of a really good painting and realising that it’s something that has come from me,” says Richard. He sees his Merino flock as the "workmen" of the business and takes care of their creature comforts like shelter and a good diet to ensure they are placid and content. And his "workmen" now happily share the land with a flourishing abundance of wildlife including emus, koalas and a quarter of all bird species in Australia. Take a look at the beautiful environment at 'Connewarran' in the video at www.merino.com/thesource EPISODE 2 – THE SCIENCE OF SHEEP Matthew and Cherie Coddington –'Roseville Park', Dubbo, NSW In the quest to produce top quality Merino fleece in Australia, fifth generation woolgrower Matthew Coddington and his wife Cherie take a scientific approach to breeding. Which is not to say they meddle with nature... rather, they bring out its very best. They strive to combine the natural elements with the genes of the finest rams to produce superior Merino wool. “It’s hard getting to the top,” Matthew says. “It’s even harder staying there, to keep it moving forward so that our genetics are at the elite end of the industry.” “It’s like we’re training for the Olympics every year,” Cherie adds. “We’re always aiming for the gold medal.” Reaching the top of the podium isn’t the only goal. Creating healthier, happier Merino sheep that are more resistant to disease brings benefits all round. “They actually produce more,” Matthew explains. “They cut more wool, they grow into bigger bodied sheep and they produce more lambs, so it’s a win-win.” When Matthew’s grandfather George bought a sheep farm in 1928, he spent decades sourcing the finest Merino rams to increase the quality and quantity of the wool cut from his flock. What would grandfather George make of it all if he could see Matthew and Cherie's Merino flock today? Take a look for yourselves in the video at www.merino.com/thesource EPISODE 3 – ROLE REVERSALS Jessica and Rob Horstman – ‘Mulga Springs’, Northampton, Western Australia Meet Jessica Horstman who is taking over her parents’ Merino wool-growing farm in Western Australia. She works hard, and enjoys a beer and steak at the pub after work. Her husband Rob doesn't have a farming background and definitely isn't a farmer; he works for a pharmaceutical company and attends meetings of the local childcare association. This reversal of traditional roles works well and has allowed Jessica to become a very successful farmer. And after seven years, Rob is even starting to see how living on the land “can get into your blood.” Despite the hard work, Jessica is adamant that women make successful farmers. “There is this perception that you need to be really tough, that you need to be a bit manly to be a farmer,” says Jessica. “I just want people to see, men and women, that it’s possible. You don’t have to be extraordinary. You just have to try.” Get some further insights into the world of Jessica and Rob by viewing the video at www.merino.com/thesource