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Beyond the Bale : December 2018
RICHARD AND JENNY WEATHERLY ‘Connewarran’, Mortlake, Victoria Situated near Mortlake in western Victoria, Richard and Jenny Weatherly have produced a flourishing property, one built on respect for the land and its natural inhabitants. The importance of the environment has always been at the forefront of their, and their son and business manager Hamish’s, minds. The couple established one and a half million trees and added pastures, wetlands and drainage – and their Merino flock happily shares the land with a flourishing abundance of wildlife including emus, koalas and a quarter of all bird species in Australia. MEET THE GROWERS WHO REPRESENTED AUSTRALIA AT THE AWARDS MATT AND VANESSA DUNBABIN ‘Bangor’, Dunalley, Tasmania ‘Bangor’ is a 6,000 ha property that includes 5,100 ha of native forests and grassland, 2,100 ha of permanent forest reserves and 35 km of coastline. The Dunbabins run a flock of 5,000 superfine Merinos, which produce some of the world’s finest, softest and brightest wool. The extensive areas of native pastures at ‘Bangor’ are ideal for growing this type of wool. They provide even nutrition year-round, which in turn allows the wool fibre to grow evenly and strongly. Native Vanessa and Matt Dunbabin WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO BE RECOGNISED FOR THE ECO STEWARDSHIP AWARD? It means a huge amount. We are very honoured and very proud. Personally, it has been a fascinating and educative journey developing ‘Connewarran’, with the assistance, mentoring and advice of some extraordinarily well-informed and generous people to whom we owe a great deal. HOW DID YOU START TO RESTORE CONNEWARRAN? Initially, we grew trees from seed that we collected locally from the scarce remnant vegetation, planted them out, guarded them against pests and fenced them against larger grazing animals. This was very time consuming and very expensive. Together with a group of like-minded farmers, we developed a machine which would sow the seed directly where it was to grow, which enabled us to sow many kilometres of seed- line in a day, establishing good shelterbelts of mixed species and good understory at minimal cost. WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH MERINOS AT CONNEWARRAN? When we started farming, we were strongly advised not to try breeding Merinos, that they had been tried in the 1930s and had failed to be productive. However, no other breed was going to cut sufficient wool of high enough quality to be profitable. Our intention was to breed a Merino that could utilise the environment and to create an environment that supported the Merino. We saw it as managing an ecosystem and harvesting production from the ecosystem, so they were never seen as separate entities. They would each be diminished if they were. MORE INFORMATION Richard and Jenny were featured in a short film by AWI telling in their own words how they built a thriving Merino wool-growing farm based on respect for the land. View the video at www.youtube. com/thewoolmarkcompany Jenny and Richard Weatherly plants covering the soil also reduce dust and dirt contamination of the fleece, ensuring wool remains bright and lustrous. WHY IS LAND AND ENVIRONMENT CARE SO IMPORTANT? Most farms in Australia are family farms, and farmers have a long connection with their land. Growing up on a farm gives you a deep care and understanding of the land, and its health is critical to the success of the farm. We know that we are just the current custodians of our special part of the world, which has been cared for by the people who have come before us. And we hope to give our children the opportunity to continue living and working at ‘Bangor’. Every decision we make on the farm is viewed through a long-term lens. WHAT LAND CONSERVATION HAVE YOU DONE AT BANGOR? At ‘Bangor’, we have voluntarily placed more than 2,000 hectares of native forest and grassland into conservation covenants. These are permanent reserves, protecting our most precious plants, animals and historic sites forever. As a farmer, caring for our land is paramount – and for farmers, this comes naturally. We rely on our land as our home, workplace and livelihood. Looking after our patch of the world means it will look after us, and we can continue to produce great wool for people to wear. WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO PROTECT TASMANIA’S NATIVE FLORA AND FAUNA? ‘Bangor’ has a diverse range of habitats, including coastal wetlands, native forests and grasslands. These have always been home to Tasmanian native animals and plants, including many endangered species. As land owners, it is our responsibility to manage our land so that wildlife and plants can thrive. It is part of what makes ‘Bangor’ such a special place to live and work. OFF FARM 15
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