Not only are wool producers now able to trace their Merino fleeces right through the supply chain to the end consumer, that end consumer will know the name of the person that contributed to the fibre they are wearing.
Direct Network Advantage (DNA), a wool supply program through wool brokers Australian Wool Network (AWN), allows provenance to the end product and showcases to consumers the producers and their sheep.
And in Williams, in Western Australia’s south west, a group of growers have pooled together to market their wool, making Williams-grown Merino wool easy to trace.
Five families now sell a total of 1000 bales of their best wool — equal to about 190 tonnes — through the DNA program offered by AWN.
The Williams woolgrowers are the first WA farmer group to join the trend for local and regional garment branding, which is matched with photos of the farming families on labels and mobile phone-readable QR codes.
Wool marketing specialist, Dyson Jones, has been working with the Williams’ woolgrowers and the team at The Williams Woolshed to bring the program together.
At The Williams Woolshed consumers are able to witness woolgrower stories as well as access Merino products at the new concept store.
AWN’s DNA program manager, Cynthia Jarrett, said the store provides a unique bale to retail success story where the wool is grown in Williams, manufactured in Australia and then sold by the local retailer in a bricks and mortar store back in Williams giving growers a direct relationship with the retailer of their product.
“The growers’ wool is used to make luxurious MerinoSnug garments and QR-enabled swing tags are attached to educate the consumer about where the wool is grown and those who have grown it,” Ms Jarrett said.
Co-owner of The Williams Woolshed, Kim Maylor, said the unique relationship has flourished between grower and retailer.
“We couldn’t do this without the support of local farmers and now they can come into the store and be proud of what they have made with wool off their very own sheep,” she said.
“It gives them a great sense of satisfaction.”
Woolgrower Noel Fowler, who runs 25,000 sheep at Rapanui Station, is one of the five Williams woolgrowers part of the Williams wool scheme.
“This is about agriculture supporting and growing a local community, and consumers wanting to know much more about the provenance of how and where their food and fibre is grown and produced,” Mr Fowler said.
“I love it that someone in China can buy a jumper and know that it was made from wool grown on my farm and they can start to understand how special that Merino wool is, and how much work has gone into producing that jumper.”
Dyson Jones’ state manager, Peter Howie said the scheme will help put WA on the map as a key wool growing region of Australia.
“When people buy one of the Williams Wool DNA garments in Sydney or Melbourne from this range, they’ll also take home a piece of Williams and the local woolgrowing community.”