Local Producer Diversifies 80-Year-Old Loddon Shire Farming Business with Bright, Bold, On-Trend Fine Merino Yarn

Local Producer Diversifies 80-Year-Old Loddon Shire Farming Business with Bright, Bold, On-Trend Fine Merino Yarn
When Melbourne-based Rachael Canfield decided she wanted to return to country living just over 12 months ago, she didn’t envisage it would be the beginning of an exciting new business venture.

Rachael grew up on a large sheep farm in Powlett Plains in northern Victoria where her family has grown merino wool for 80 years. In early 2018, after having worked in Melbourne as a cancer research scientist for 11 years, she decided it was time to return to her roots.

She moved back to Powlett Plains and took a job at a veterinary medication manufacturing facility in Bendigo. At the same time, she started working on the family’s property Yuruga Plains, assisting her parents with processing and selling the farm’s fine merino wool.

“As an avid knitter and crocheter, I also decided to see what dad’s wool was like to work with. I decided to get it processed and spun. While doing this, I realised that there is very limited, if any, 100 per cent Australian-produced merino wool,” she explains.

“Dad’s wool was so nice that I couldn’t keep it to myself and so I thought why not share this fabulous product with others.”

In July 2019, Yuruga Plains’ single source fine merino yarn, undyed and in a range of bold fashionable colours, was launched.

The colourful range, which comes in super soft 4 ply and 8 ply yarn is proving popular among a new generation of knitters, seeking premium, on-trend, single source and 100 per cent Australian produced yarn.

“Many people don’t realise it but most “Australian wool” on the market is actually sent overseas to be processed. We worked really hard to seek out the few remaining local businesses that will process raw wool into yarn. It is really important to us that the entire process, from start to finish, is all done locally,” she says.

Ms Canfield says she uses three Victorian businesses to complete the key three processing steps, which involves having the wool scoured (washed) to remove the oils and dirt; having it carded (removing vegetable matter like grass seeds) and combed (to align the wool fibers and remove short fibers); and finally, spun.

“The idea for Yuruga Plains yarn is unique to how the farm has been run for the past 80 years,” she says. “Our wool comes from sheep that have had 80 years of breeding to make it super soft and therefore ideal for knitting, as well as crochet, weaving and embroidery.”

“I also thought it was a great idea for our farm to diversify in these challenging times,” she says. “We have approximately 1000 head of sheep and they are my dad’s passion, and always have been. My mother often jokes that he loves them more that he loves her. And this is the beginning of the next generation taking over the farm and diversifying in this difficult climate. “

Ms Canfield says with climate change bringing more unpredictable weather, diversification is the key to the longevity of her family farming business.

“It’s so hard to predict weather. Dry means feeding, wet there could be floods. Then there are prices for feed, wool sales. That’s why we are trying to diversify with Yuruga Plains.”

She also hopes her fledgling business will help support other local wool businesses.

“The processing businesses I use here in Victoria are struggling. By using all-Australian processors, I hope to support and help grow the entire Australian wool industry. “

Yuruga Plains yarn are available in 15 hand-dyed colours, in 4ply and 8 ply, and retail for $30 for a 100g ball. Undyed hanks of 4ply and 8ply (sold for dyeing) retail for $25.

For more information or to purchase, visit: https://www.yurugaplains.com.au/

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For more information contact the Loddon Visitor Information Centre on (03) 5494 3489 or www.visitloddonvalley.com.au