Liberal Daily – 19/9/18
Superfine product: Jim Fletcher displays the family's Bellevue Park Wool line of yarns at Dubbo's Craft Alive expo. Photo: AMY MCINTYRE
Wool producer Jim Fletcher’s investment in the industry sees him do everything from mustering in the paddock to crocheting a shawl.
The fourth-generation merino breeder and father Bill chartered a new course for their business four years ago.
They released a range of 100 per cent Australian superfine yarn under their own Bellevue Park Wool label, available in 20 different colours.
Today rather than sell all the wool from their Cooma district property on the open market for the best available price, 10 per cent of their clip goes to the new line.
In Dubbo for Craft Alive at the weekend, Jim Fletcher told the Daily Liberal the business was taking their operation into the future.
“It was a way of us value-adding our product and basically being able to make our farm viable again,” he said.
“The profit out of the wool is a lot better than selling it through on the open market.
“It’s a lot more work of course, but you don’t get the rewards without the work.”
The lush wool is sent to New Zealand for processing, returning in the 50 grams balls, as well as “undyed and unbleached” hanks and cones for the hand-dying market.
In the past four years the family business had gone from being “price-takers” to “price-setters”.
“It’s probably not as quick a turnaround, and it has taken us 3½, nearly four years to get to where we are, but every year the business has grown and grown and grown, so every year we do twice as much as we’ve done the year before,” Mr Fletcher said.
The entrepreneur encouraged primary producers in the Dubbo district to consider branching out, but offered the advice to “start off small”.
“I’d always recommend doing a trial, before you got to heavily invested into it, but if you can see there’s a market and it’s worthwhile investing into value-adding,” Mr Fletcher said.
He said connecting with the customer and learning the whole processing pipeline were vital.
“So it’s interesting from that point of view and it’s also one of those things primary producers can take away and think about, I’m not saying it’s for everybody, but it is an idea that you can take it from paddock to finished product,” Mr Fletcher said.
The new venture has also led Mr Fletcher to learn to crochet blankets and shawls, making an impression.
“A lot of ladies are very pleased to see a man [crocheting], a lot of them are saying ‘well how can we get our husbands to do it, or our partners to do it’,” he said.
“I don’t know what the answer is there, but it’s one of those things, I find it quite easy, quite relaxing, but everybody’s different.”
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