Adventures for generations
Blenheim, Marlborough, New Zealand
9500 merinos on 3100 hectares
There was heaps of snow in the mountains in 1982 when Ron Small was asked to be the helicopter pilot of a rescue operation around the famous Mount Cook in New Zealand. The military had already tried to find the two professional climbers who had been lost for 13 days, but their chopper crashed. Ron agreed to the dangerous task, and succeeded. Later he settled for a calmer life, and bought his first merino farm in 1987. Twelve years later he bought the bigger, older farm Blairich (established in 1848), which is now being mainly run by his son Tom (35).
As a younger man Tom enjoyed a few years traveling around the world, working at an office in London, taking the train alone through Siberia and being a cowboy in Canada, before finally following the footsteps of his father and concentrating on wool. Today, senior Ron and his wife Sue live right next door to Tom and his wife Claire, as well as their little charming daughter Georgia (2).
Both of their houses are surrounded by big old gum trees and located only a few kilometers from the ocean on quite low land. But as soon as you turn of the main road into the mountains you´ll climb fast up to 1500 meters. “So we are a high-mountain property without being isolated”, says Tom. That way they also avoid the harsh winters. “Our grass grows very consistent throughout the year, which means the fiber is consistent”, says Tom. Meaning the fleece is very even from top to bottom and does not break easily. “I would say the feeling of our wool is smooth like velvet, but also waxy without being sticky”.
The Smalls believe the most important thing for the merinos are two things; food and space to be left alone. “The better fed and happier they are, the better the product”, Tom says making sure to mention he uses species of grass that suit their specific climate and environment, and that 100 percent of what they do have an element of sustainability in it. “All I know is that I can still be doing what I am doing 2000 years from now, and it would still work”, Tom says. He and his wife are outdoorsy people, and when they take some time off he likes to hunt deer, she likes to fish trout. “We don’t get any satisfaction from sitting inside”, Tom says, adding what he loves about nature, “the wide open spaces, the quiet and the time to think…and not think about all the stresses of life”.