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Beyond the Bale : September 2019
With consumers increasingly interested in the eco-credentials of products, many woolgrowers are focusing more and more on supporting the environment on their properties. One such business is Kia Ora Merino at Winslow In Victoria, which recently won an Environmental Sustainability Award for its achievements. For today’s discerning consumers, a garment’s origin can be as important as the quality and style of the clothing itself. Customers are insisting on greater integrity and authenticity in the products they buy – and they are increasingly demanding products that are planet friendly. Australian wool has a great story to tell. Indeed, many brands and retailers are using wool’s ‘farm to fashion story’ as a core ingredient in the marketing of their high-value end product. These companies are using wool’s natural origin as a way of differentiating their wool products from synthetic and other fibres on the market that are less eco-friendly – see the article opposite. With the spotlight increasingly being shone on farming practices, many woolgrowers – such as Kia Ora Merino at Winslow, 23 kms north of Warrnambool in Moyne Shire, Victoria – are taking steps to maximise their environmental credentials. “Here at Kia Ora Merino we continuously aim to improve not only productivity, but the condition of the land and its environment. We hope to leave our place in the best possible state for future generations,” said James Finnigan of the family-owned property. James and Nicole were recipients this year of one of Moyne Shire Council’s two Environmental Sustainability Awards, presented to them for their focus on sustainable and ethical farming practices. “Over the past five years Kia Ora Merino has expanded its business model based on economics to include sustainability, responsibility and ethics. It is an honour to be recognised by the council for our work in creating positive impacts on our environment,” James said. It was a wool-growing double at this year’s Environmental Sustainability Awards, with the other recipients also being woolgrowers: David and Susan Rowbottom of ‘Rowensville’, who have previously been featured in Beyond the Bale for their excellent environmental work and quality wool. PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT REAPS REWARDS The Finnigans provide wool and wool/sheep themed merchandise to their local tourist information centre, which has resulted in a 400% increase in traffic to the Kia Ora Merino Facebook page. “Public discussion around environmental sustainability is very prominent now, so it’s been wonderful to do our bit and get the word out there that primary producers can have a positive impact on the environment,” said Nicole. The Finnigans have demonstrated that traditional farmers can change practices and that being sustainable will increase demand for their wool. “At Kia Ora Merino, we consistently have soft handling, sound, bright wool that is bought at auction by the likes of Schneider Group, New England Wool and Fox & Lillie. “Recently Fox & Lillie organised the supply of Kia Ora wool to Wolfgang Scout, a new Australian fashion label, itself very much based on ethics and environmental sustainability (see opposite page). To be supplying our wool to such a like-minded company is very exciting.” HOLISTIC FARMING PRACTICES The Finnigans have implemented a range of holistic practices at Kia Ora that have made a significant contribution to environmental sustainability. These include fencing off their rivers and revegetating the banks with indigenous trees and grasses, which has reduced nitrate James and Nicole Finnigan and family of Kia Ora Merino from Winslow, Victoria, pictured receiving their Environmental Sustainability Award in May. The Finnigans have implemented a range of practices on their wool-growing property to increase its environmental credentials. WOOLGROWERS: KIA ORA MERINO ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY and sediment runoff by about 80%. Stock are now watered by troughs to protect the environment and reduce evaporation. Tree corridors have been planted according to a whole farm plan to encourage wildlife to travel along rivers and across the farm. Over the past five years they have completed gorse, blackberry, willow, ragwort and rabbit eradication along river frontage and across the farm. Ground cover is kept above 70% and pasture mass above 1,000 kg DM/ha which ensures the surface movement of water, nutrients and soil is greatly reduced. They do frequent soil tests and only add the inputs required to improve soil health. “To be supplying our wool to the Wolfgang Scout fashion brand is very exciting, because like us they too base their business on ethics and environmental sustainability.” Nicole Finnigan, Kia Ora Merino They do drench resistance testing to ensure they are using the appropriate drench and have no drench resistance. They also send faecal samples from their sheep for worm egg counts and only drench as needed – resulting in less chemical usage. They are also avid recyclers and repair instead of buy, and they use solar energy and windmills. As a result of these and other initiatives, the Finnigans have seen a huge increase in biodiversity. For example, they now have a blue wren population, koalas, a pair of wedge-tail eagles (in the Winslow Gorge), and an endangered Wallaby population appears to have stabilised. MORE INFORMATION www.kiaoramerino.com.au OFF FARM 21
In the Shops - September 2019