By Bruce Wills
How green are you?
I mean, do you genuinely care about your carbon footprint and the integrity of what you put into your house let alone place against your skin?
Would you be prepared to wear genetically modified fibres against your skin?
I imagine some would answer an indignant, no.
I could further ask if you would be prepared to wear oil, let alone fill your walls with the stuff or even lay it on your floors.
In Australia, recently, I learned the amount of non-genetically modified cotton could probably be held in one hand. Alright, a slight exaggeration there, but truth be told, almost all of the world’s cotton is genetically modified.
Whatever you may think staring into a drawer, at least it is a natural fibre. What then about the galaxy of ‘man-made fibres’ out there?
While I am passionate about wool the industry has sometimes resembled a disaster movie. Instead of an asteroid hurtling towards earth, as in Armageddon, it has been Du Pont’s synthetics. Instead of Bruce Willis’ fictional heroics we can perhaps call on His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales. I have met ‘HRH’ and while Prince Charles may not be cut from the action hero mould, he is a farming hero.
On a soggy Auckland Spring day, his knowledge of farming took my breath away.
It was like talking to someone at a Federated Farmers meeting. Prince Charles not only understood sheep farming as a farmer does, but the market opportunities we have within our grasp.
At ‘Shear Brilliance', held in ‘The Cloud,’ HRH understood what was before him.
Wool is a material of tomorrow that can be harnessed with élan and innovation.
One of the innovative products on display came from the farm of Federated Farmers’ Ruapehu provincial president, Lyn Neeson.
Thinking about where it all went wrong for wool comes from the years of plenty. You can have too much of a good thing when it breeds complacency.
Instead of looking forward after the boom years of the 1950’s, the global industry started fighting one another. So much so, we lost control of our most precious asset being the word ‘wool’ itself. The Oxford Dictionary defines wool as “the fine, soft curly or wavy hair forming the coat of a sheep, goat, or similar animal”, but adds, “a thing resembling wool”.
Any manufacturer can use the word ‘wool,’ even if it involves mixing sand and recycled glass at 1,450°C and converting the glass produced into fibres. Not a lot of sheep then.
You can say we lost wool’s integrity, because internationally, the industry sat back with a thumb in its collective mouth.
Even today, manufacturers in the United States go unchallenged using cute lambs to promote carpets made out of oil.
As a result of Prince Charles’ visit downunder, it has allowed us to meet with Minister David Carter and industry leaders. The Campaign for Wool is a global one and proving HRH practices what he preaches, he showed off his high regard for New Zealand farmers by proudly telling guests about his suit made from “beautiful New Zealand wool”.
More importantly for the assembled international media, it stood up to that soggy Auckland weather.
Wool matters because it is central to the future of our entire sheep industry.
Given we live in a green aware age, its export potential ought to be in the billions of dollars and not the hundreds of millions it currently is.
This is also why that global Campaign for Wool and HRH’s patronage is central to wooing consumers back to wool. It is not about lecturing but turning consumers onto wools natural, flexible and renewable characteristics.
Thanks to innovation, it now offers stain-resistance too.
Why put an oil derrick inside your house or on your own back when you can have the real deal.
Perhaps the time has come for Federated Farmers to step up. This is something we do rarely and only when something breaks down. One thing for certain, the status quo is not an option going forward.
So what is to be done?
Ownership of the product to first stage processing is a start and Wools of New Zealand is offering just that for growers.
This is a golden opportunity and arguably the last chance saloon for strong wool growers to own a collective future.
Federated Farmers is strongly and actively encouraging all farmers to get to a Wools of New Zealand roadshow. This is vital if we want to have an industry capable of realising the green future wool offers.
If you take our supposed clean, green 100% smart slogan seriously, natural wool or fibres is the way to go.
We cannot expect others to do what we are not prepared to do ourselves.
Farmers have to live the dream and I can tell you the wool insulation in my house is superb. As far as I am concerned, Prince Charles commitment makes him New Zealand’s ‘next top monarch’.
For more information about Wools of New Zealand and its roadshows for farmers, please click here.