Without our amazing farmers, there’d be no Smalls.
So come and meet the Jones family whose farm, Matarae Station in Central Otago, New Zealand, provides so much of the gorgeous wool that makes Smalls so special.
Here, in their own words, are William and Emily Jones…
Tell us a little about yourselves
I'm William Jones, I'm 37 years old and I’ve been farming all my life.
Born and bred on Matarae Station - my parents, Ron and Juliet, have owned the property for about 60 years and are still involved with the running of the farm - I live here now with my wife, Emily and our three boys.
I moved up here 12 years ago after meeting my husband, just before we got married.
How did your relationship with Smalls come about?
We teamed up with Smalls because of their huge passion for growing Merino wool. There is so much value in having a real connection between farmer and consumer, and in having connections with people from all over the world who share a passion for our wool.
It’s great to work with Smalls Merino and see the raw product we work with go right through to the finished designs. Smalls share the same passion and dedication to the fibre.
How does having these connections help you with how you farm?
In the last ten years, we've seen our relationships really blossom. Through them, we're aiming to communicate even closer and more regularly with consumers. Brands love coming to our properties and seeing how we look after the sheep. They take this info back to the consumers, educating them on our practices and where their products come from.
By getting to know our consumers - who they are, the type of products they want, what they actually want from us - can actually change how we farm and make us more open about we do it.
We have brilliant relationships right through the chain - from the wool broker, right through to the companies using our wool. We think of it as a community - a family - and really appreciate knowing everyone along the way.
Having these close connections is brilliant - we meet people from across the world and know exactly what they're expecting from our product!
Why is traceability and working with ZQ important for you?
When we sell the wool to a company, such as Smalls Merino, we can 100% guarantee that the wool hasn't been touched between leaving our farm and arriving at the mills in Italy. This means we control the quality and ethics of the whole process.
So ZQ is definitely important to us. And it’s very important to the end consumer as they can be assured that the place the wool is coming from is ethical, environmentally friendly and clean.
It also gives us a voice. It quantifies what we're already doing and provides goals and standards we can aim for. From there we can only improve and enhance.
For us, it's not about reaching these standards and staying the same; it's about change - finding ways to evolve, coming up with new ideas to make the environment and work environment better and safer, and make the animals happier!
The ZQ program is really important for us. There's a lot of miscommunication out there – especially on social media - so I think it's really important to know that you can buy a brand that's authentic and the trust is there. And we do what we can to ensure the quality.
Sustainability, traceability right through from grower to retail, and doing the right thing are hugely important to us. We’re not farming for ourselves. We're farming for future generations - for our sons and their children. And we really want them to be able to carry on that legacy.
Our connection to the land means we’re able to bring up a family here. Every morning we wake up realising we're so lucky to live in such a unique and special place. We really appreciate working in it every day.
So what does a typical day look like for you?
I get up around 5 am with the boys. We usually have breakfast with them and are out the door by 6.30am. First thing we do is make sure we know what direction everyone who is working for us is going in.
This is followed by a lot of stock work and shifting animals. Then there's micron testing the wool and muscle scanning - these are DNA testing technologies.
We also get to work planting new grasses crops to feed the animals. The work each day changes dramatically from season to season.
So my day usually starts with getting the two eldest children onto the school bus and making lunches for the team. If they've got a busy day, it's important that they’re well fed!
Our youngest son and I will help on the farm if we need to, working with sheep in the yards or tagging along, shifting the stock. Quite often the afterschool activities wear off, whether it be hockey, rugby, swimming and the kids like to get involved. Then in the evening it’s farm admin. That’s usually what takes up much of the evening.
How important is the welfare of your sheep for producing quality Merino wool?
Here, animal welfare is paramount. we literally spend our lives making sure the animals are extremely well cared for and looked after. There's a number of aspects to consider, such as ensuring they have enough shelter and access to clean drinking water. Also, regular health monitoring to ensure beautiful body condition and to eliminate any problems further down the line. It's key to growing good quality fibre - as important as using good quality feed.
Would you consider your practices sustainable?
We take a lot of steps to make sure the farm's more sustainable.
For us, it's about ensuring the animals’ welfare: their water, food and condition are all at the highest level we can produce. Then we look at the environment to make sure that the native species thrive on the property, for example, we have native skinks and geckos. We ensure that the water quality is better going through our property than it was coming into our property.
Next we look at the people that come here to work and help us out. They need to be coming to a safe environment that they enjoy. They're the main steps - as well as making sure our families are healthy and happy!
We keep the farm sustainable by ensuring we have the right animals in the right place and in the numbers that suit the environment.
We also monitor the waterways. Also we are learning to cultivate and increase the number of trees that are native to this area and do biodiversity transects every year to ensure that there is no reduction of the native vegetation.
(Matarae is also part of the newly launched ZQRX program working towards regenerative farming)
What's your favourite time of year on the farm?
I don't know if I could pick a favourite time on the farm as all the seasons in this environment are extremely dramatic!
I do enjoy Winter to an extent. The environment is very harsh and the sheep just thrive on it. But then I also love early Spring when we're shearing!
My favourite time of the year is Spring, seeing the lambs. Being a mum, you love that - and the kids enjoy seeing the baby animals and feeding them.
We have to ask, do you have a favourite sheep?!
I don't really! We spend every single day trying to make our sheep look fat, healthy, happy and well-fed as we possibly can.
Well, I do! She was an orphaned lamb that we saved and has become one of the kids’ favourite pets, living with us near the house!