Home to Richard, Annabelle, Emma and Henry Subtil
Tell us about Omarama Station
"Omarama Station has been in my family since 1919 when my grandfather purchased the property. Richard and I are third generation and our children Emma and Henry will be fourth generation.
Omarama Station is twelve thousand hectares of the high country of New Zealand. We’re pretty much right in the middle of the South Island.
We go up to about 1500 meters to the top and we’re about 450 meters here.
We’ve got nineteen and a half thousand merino sheep and we employ three people permanently."
When did you first hear about Jeremy Moon?
"It’s a silly story... which is true! A guy who went to school with Annabelle used to work in a outdoor sport shop in Christchurch and he can remember when this guy with a ring on his thumb came in and started talking about merino wool garments. The store staff just laughed, because they said, "it’s about man-made fibres, you’re just wrong." The same guy said that a few years later they were having to turn people away who were looking for merino wool icebreaker garments. Jeremy obviously was a visionary about what people really want and the sort of stinky man-made fibre just doesn’t cut it. Natural merino fibre does it all and that’s why we’re seeing such a great expansion in the sector."
"We’re signing up to a 10-year contract and that means that our kids have got certainty for ten years. Well, that’s unheard of in agriculture."
How did you become a partner of icebreaker?
"It’s 20 years ago since we first started with icebreaker. Jeremy came down to the area to look for direct supply contracts which was a new idea then and it appealed to us. We liked the way that Jeremy sort of approached the business. He was really passionate about the merino fibre itself. Rather than just being a commodity, it was the whole story around the fibre. We just signed up in that first year and haven’t looked back since."
Could you describe the relationship with icebreaker?
"Before icebreaker it was unheard of to have a relationship with the people who produced the garment. We wanted to have a relationship right the way through to when it was actually walking out of the shop on someone’s backand being able to see the logo and to know that part of us was in there was really important to us.
Over time, the relationship has grown, but it’s grown with us working together. So, there’s really good communication backwards and forwards between icebreaker and ourselves & we know lots of the people involved . When there’s a new idea or a new product we feel that we’re part of making that happen. It’s much more a relationship than just a business decision. Much more than that. It gives a big buzz!"
What do the long-term contracts mean to you?
"With icebreaker came out with long-term contracts as the first outfit to do that.
We breed our sheep to be specifically suited to producing icebreaker wool and we can only do that because we’ve got the confidence that the contracts give us and so, at the moment there’s a 10-year contract that we are signing up to. That means that for Emma and Henry, our kids, that they’ve got certainty for ten years. Well, that’s unheard of in agriculture.
And it’s at a level that is good for everyone where we’re sure we’re profitable and icebreaker know what they can get. So, it’s about making sure that we are confident that our future is guaranteed going forward. And that means a huge amount to us."