Unravelling the wool industry: Resilience, innovation, and the vision for a Romney revival

Unravelling the wool industry: Resilience, innovation, and the vision for a Romney revival

Weathering floods, droughts, and an ever-changing agricultural landscape, fifth-generation farmer Freddy Gane has taken a long view of the future of the wool industry. 

In the early days of establishing Kaituna Ridges Sheep and Beef Farm, Freddy Gane told REX host Dominic George that he and his wife Nikita faced unprecedented challenges, including two devastating floods. 

"We thought, oh well, this is obviously going to be a recurring theme and we started building a few things into our system to mitigate floods," Gane said.

Gane also passionately spoke about the wool industry and his mission to breathe new life into it by creating unique products from Romney Lamb's wool. 

"We're one of the few people now that are unfortunately or fortunately, depending on what side you're on, making money out of strong wool, and we've got to change it." 

He stressed the importance of innovation and collaboration, acknowledging the crucial role these elements play in pushing the industry forward.

While the Merino wool industry has seen success due to effective marketing, the Romney wool industry lags behind. 

According to Gane, "Every American that comes through has heard of Merino and none of them have heard of Romney." 

His goal is to ride the coattails of the Merino industry's success, educating consumers about the quality and versatility of Romney wool.

With International Wool Month (or as Freddy suggested, "let's say it's International Wool Month") approaching in October, the Ganes have ambitious plans. From making Romney lamb's wool blankets and jerseys to upcoming releases on their website, they are doing their part to put upward pressure on the industry.

Despite the challenges, Freddy Gane's vision for the future of the wool industry is clear. 

As he said, "If the US, in particular, decided that New Zealand wool is what they wanted, we would never be able to produce enough." 

This, he believes, underlines the untapped potential of the wool industry and the need for targeted marketing and quality product creation.

While the road to reviving the wool industry may be long, Gane's unwavering determination, innovative thinking, and heartfelt passion for his craft make it clear that if anyone can bring about change, it's him. 

"We're a tiny little fish in a massive big ocean out there at the moment, but if there's any sort of impact we can have to open the wool industry up somehow and put a bit of upward pressure on prices, then we'd love to do it."

Innovation, resilience, and a Romney revival – it's all in a day's work for Freddy Gane. And if his plans succeed, the wool industry will be all the stronger for it. 

To find out more about Kaituna Ridges Sheep and Beef Farm and their upcoming plans for International Wool Month, visit their website at kaitunaridges.com.

Listen to the full chat between farmer Freddy Gane and Dominic George above.

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