Episode 5: Just Shorn
On the next episode, screening 20 April at 7pm on TV ONE:
Turning up for work on Hamish de Latour's Southern Hawke's Bay farm wearing synthetic clothing would be a big mistake.
"Nobody on this farm is allowed to wear polar fleece," says Hamish. "I can't believe they've been allowed to even call it fleece. The synthetic industry has done us for dinner and we've sat there and let them get away with it."
But Hamish is on a crusade to change that - and getting farmers to wear wool is one of his missions.
Another is fronting the Just Shorn campaign, an initiative to promote top-quality New Zealand branded wool carpets to carpet retailers in the United States.
Hamish has twice been to America to attend retailers' conventions and he says it's hard to believe how little they know about wool.
"We've paid hundreds of millions of dollars as wool growers to presumably tell everyone what's so wonderful about our wool and why they should buy it.
"But when you get round the other side of the world you find out that people don't even know what a sheep is," he says. "Many of those who are selling carpets don't know where wool comes from or have never heard of it."
When Hamish was a boy, prices for carpet wool were high and the fibre delivered a good portion of the income on Te Whangai, the family farm east of Dannevirke.
When returns to growers began to fall, Hamish's father, Bay de Latour, started a campaign to restore the status of wool and make it a sought after product once again.
It's been a lifelong commitment for Bay - and Hamish has followed in his footsteps.
"He's just put everything into the wool industry for as long as I can remember," says Hamish, "and watching the difficulties of getting things going and getting support made me realise that someone had to get in there and help him."
Hamish and his wife Wynne run a ram stud and see it as an important tool to improve the quality of New Zealand carpet wool.. He has been weighing fleeces for decades to work out which rams produce the most wool, and he also has wool samples tested to identify other important characteristics.
"As a supplier of genetics to others, it's our job to think about what will be needed 20 years down the track," he says. We're going to be able to produce high quality carpet wool if we select for the right traits in our sheep."
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