A very positive and much needed piece of wool marketing took place at this time. We were asked by one of our main wool buying customers on the U.K. mainland if we could select a typical Native Shetland flock to represent the hill wools of Shetland in their totally natural environment of heather, peat and sea shore (void of any fertiliser); in fact an “organic” setting. The story of this flock and images of the sheep and its location would be used to showcase all the attributes of Shetland wool in an in-house promotion in a prestigious textile store in the Far East.
“What better example than the Smith’s family island of Papa because of its isolation and environmental status would be ideal,” I suggested.
Papa is perfect for controlling the breeding of purebred native Shetland sheep with no risk of outside interference. Its flock provides the foundation stock for the much larger Berry Farm. Particular attention is paid to the wool quality the ewes produce; the soft springy fleece with a unique handle suitable for the spinning of high quality knitting yarns. The isle, like the rest of Shetland, is completely disease free. The sheep graze on the native pasture of coarse grass and heather. They also supplement their diet by eating the sea weed in the ebb tide, thus supplying them with extra vitamins.
The only other residents on Papa are numerous sea birds, otters and seals which play in the crystal clear waters.
Papa is not only a beautiful place, it is also a perfect home for the hardy native Shetland sheep, which – except for dipping, shearing and taking the lambs of the island – can care for themselves year in year out.
This portrayal of native Shetland sheep in their own natural environment was used by the customer in marketing product made from hill Shetland sheep. It is a typical example of how native Shetland sheep have evolved over the centuries.
As the main buyer of Shetland wool over 80% of the local wool clip, it is our responsibility to seek out new markets and add value to the wool clip. It is this type of marketing which should have been applied to the marketing of the finished Shetland lamb. Sadly and for whatever reason that has not been the case; as is shown today with the price of Shetland lambs being practically worthless!
In writing this blog and others I am drawn back to memories of my younger self working for the Smith family. One memory in particular makes me smile even all these years later.
At the same time as the Native Shetland Papa project, I recall an incident which occurred and thankfully, a good humoured one at that. I mention in a previous blog of being marooned for several hours on Papa. A similar situation arose in 1999 when again I was once again marooned on Papa; however this time with Jim & Eva and two helpers. We made a mess of gathering the sheep into the pen and this added hours on to our task. When Jim went to check the boat he found it was “ebbed” up at the pier. Eva roared, “That cannot be, do something!” We tried pushing with no success. Eva asked, “How long till the tide turns?” “About eight hours,” I replied. She again expressed her annoyance at the situation, to which I replied, “Even King Canute could not turn the tide!” We left Papa about seven hours later.