Awatere Valley, Blenheim, New Zealand
5000 merinos on 1300 hectars
Over 100 years ago a former New Zealand-family raised their first structural building in the orange and green hill-country of Awatere Valley. It was a wool shed meant for the sheep, while the people themselves lived in a tent. The shed is still standing today, but with company of more houses. In one of them, a pretty homestead surrounded by 200 pink and white roses, lives Hamish Oswald with his family. He is fourth generation to be running the 100 % mulesing-free merino farm Duntroon Station, which produces wool “that feels like heaven”. In 1908 Hamish’s great-grandfather Walter Oswald, bought the land from the tent-family, together with 1000 ewes.
Two years before, in 1906, when Mr. Walter was just 20 years old, he was a tall and handsomely dressed “man of the land”. He came sailing from Scotland with the dream of becoming a sheep farmer. His father was a well-educated lawyer, “but New Zealand was the new frontier”, as Hamish explains while studying his impressive family tree-drawing. News had traveled far in regards to this paradise of healthy farming at the end of the world. Now, a century later, Hamish lives in this extraordinary open landscape filled with tussocks, deer and wild boar, with his wife Jane and their three children Sophie (9), a keen horse-rider, Angus (6), a keen biker, and little Hugo (2). Shepherd Toby (17) also lives on the farm, with his three working dogs. When the family has some leisure time, they enjoy fishing blue cod from their boat in a nearby fjord, before lighting a fire to camp in a cove, where they eat fresh fish for dinner al fresco.
“Think boldly and tread lightly”, is Hamish´s motto for farming. For every generation the farm has grown in scale and amount of merinos, mainly because of new types and species of grass that grows longer into the winter. Also, the three previous Oswald-generations have been very generous with planting oak trees, walnut trees and eucalyptuses on the farm. Here and there you´ll also find beautiful manuka, a native flower tree that the very first inhabitants used to make tea from. Because Hamish is “only taking care of the land for the next generation”, he is not going to try to fit as many merinos as he can on his vivid paddocks, even though he could. He says; “There is nothing like a hard day of work, and coming home with the feeling you have achieved something you can witness, to leave my mark on the land…in a good way.”