Profile: Glenaan Station

By: Shannon Williams

Nestled beneath the Southern Alps, Glenaan Station boasts a rich and diverse history

Glenaan Station is a fourth-generation property nestled beneath the Southern Alps

This unique slice of New Zealand is a fourth-generation property and is home to Paul and Prue Ensor and their three children Juliet, Guy, and Hugh.

As well as 6000 merino sheep, 300 Angus cattle, and 12 working dogs, salmon spawning is part of life at Glenaan Station, along with high country accommodation and being a thoroughfare to the Te Araroa Walkway.

In more recent years, however, a continued dedication to merino wool, biodiversity, and sustainable farm practices has seen an increased focus on the newest business arm: Hemprino.

Proudly owned by three New Zealand families (Paul and Prue Ensor, Siobhan and Christopher O’Malley (West Coast), and Harriet and Clint Bell (Canterbury)), Hemprino brings to life a shared vision of promoting the quality of Glenaan Station ZQ certified merino wool and the use of other natural fibres in luxury apparel.

John and Prue Ensor

Hemp and merino

The story of Hemprino is deeply rooted in this family farm, which proudly produces 16-micron super-fine merino wool, supplying the New Zealand Merino Company’s premium ZQRX brand, as well as Hemprino, a pioneering brand that fuses innovation with sustainable farming practices to produce unique and ethical textiles.

The farming legacy

The Ensors’ innovative ethos has been a hallmark of their farming practices since its inception. The legacy began with Paul’s grandfather, who was among the first in the region to implement pit silage, enhancing land management. His progressive nature extended to pioneering top-dressing techniques, improving soil quality.

Passing on a legacy that future generations can be proud of is important to the family

This forward-thinking and creative streak persisted through generations, inspiring the family to continue pushing boundaries.

"My father did a number of innovative things on the farm as well, so it’s always sort of been part of the family’s makeup to innovate," Paul says.

"We’ve developed a lot of the farm since we took over from my parents, increasing the production of the property by more than 50%. And over the years, we were looking for other ways to use our IP and generate more revenue for the farm. We wanted to work out how we could create a point of difference. So that’s how the Hemprino idea came up."

Paul says passing on a legacy that future generations can be proud of is important to the family. With three children actively engaged in farm activities during weekends and school holidays, nurturing a new generation of farmers who appreciate the importance of sustainable practices is key.

"Whenever they’re home, and at the weekends and during school holidays, they’re always out and about helping on the farm," Paul says of Juliet, 13, Guy, 11 and Hugh, 8.

"And that’s always the beauty of farming. You can take your kids to work and teach them as they go and give them some responsibility to do certain jobs. It’s a great place for them to learn about nature and life in general."

Sustainable farming practices

At Glenaan Station, the concept of sustainable farming is not just a buzzword; it’s a way of life. The farm adopts a distinctive approach by integrating various species, including grasses, legumes, and herbs. Mixed swards provide their animals with a diversified diet while ensuring better ground cover, reducing erosion and dust.

Paul says healthier animals require fewer chemicals

"Healthier animals require fewer chemicals, and efficient grassland management minimises the need for excess fertilisers," Paul says.

The property is also well-subdivided and does a lot of rotational grazing, with most mobs shifted weekly ensuring that areas of the farm are not over-grazed.

Paul says there’s a growing awareness about sustainable practices with consumers. "People look at food labels and look at what they’re eating, but they don’t always look at a label on a piece of clothing and understand what’s in it and how it’s made.

"Every 25 minutes, globally the apparel industry uses an Olympic-sized swimming pool worth of oil, so we’re all about natural fibre, being biodegradable. At the end of life, our products can either be recycled and reused or they can biodegrade back into soil. So, it’s not only thinking about where your clothing’s coming from but also where it’s going to end up.

Introducing the ZQ Merino

The Hemprino wool is made with ZQ-certified Merino Wool. The wool is audited by a third party to ensure it’s produced in the most sustainable way.

Hemprino wool is made with ZQ-certified Merino Wool

The accreditation system, recognised globally, signifies adherence to rigorous standards of animal welfare, environmental stewardship, staff wellbeing, and community engagement.

"We get a lot of satisfaction and enjoyment out of interaction with the brands we have wool contracts with," Paul says.

"You know where your wool goes, you understand why they need that type of wool, and they learn from us how we produce it, so it bridges that divide between the producer, the manufacturer, and the brand so that they can then help share our story and get consumers to better understand how our production systems work and the benefits of our products versus other generic ones."

The birth of Hemprino

The journey into creating Hemprino, a blend of wool and hemp, began with a simple phone call from friends Siobhan and Christopher O’Malley who were exploring the potential of combining these fibres. Intrigued by the idea, Paul helped embark on a journey to determine if it was viable.

"A significant development occurred when we received a grant to go to China and study the wool industry there, where we met two of the world’s biggest spinners.

"After some attempts at working with partners overseas, we decided it was best to move our production to New Zealand and started working with Wellington-based Woolyarns New Zealand.

"They’re very experienced in blending different fibres. They’re the pioneers of the Perino, the merino and possum blend yarn."

The property is home to 6000 merino sheep, 300 Angus cattle, and 12 working dogs

Along with the O’Malleys, the third partner to come into the mix was friend Harriet Bell, after Paul ran into her at the post office sending off samples.

"She asked me a whole lot of questions and then about a week later she rang me back and offered to help us get some better traction on the project.

"Harriet has great sales and marketing skills, and she’s good at executing projects. So we brought her onboard to help us because at that stage, it was still more of a concept and idea rather than an actual business," Paul says.

"What we’ve found is if there’s three of you, you’re always accountable to someone else, which gives you the impetus to get things done.

Glenaan Station is a thoroughfare to the Te Araroa Walkway

"I admire entrepreneurs who do everything on their own because that takes real drive and if it’s only your side hustle, it’s a big ask. But when you’ve got three of you, you can share the workload, you can utilise people’s skills that are in different areas. So that’s been a real bonus of having the three of us involved in that we all have our areas of responsibility, but we’re accountable to each other, so it makes sure that things happen."

Hemprino has an array of benefits. The fibres offer excellent antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, fire resistance, and UV resistance. The fabric softens over time, creating garments that feel more comfortable with wear and washing.

"The most surprising advantage is its suitability for individuals who usually find wool irritating," Paul says. "The addition of hemp to the yarn makes it possible for people to wear wool garments directly against their skin."

The Hemprino collection officially launched in 2022 and includes the Concious Crew in various colours, a beanie, and a hoodie. The collection has grown to incorporate accessories such as scarves, headbands, beanies, and neck warmers.

Harriet, Paul and Siobhan

"Our fibre comes from sheep that are happy and healthy in their environment, and the result is fibre that is uniform in diameter and performance," says Paul.

"Only the very best fleeces are hand-selected by our highly skilled wool classer to meet our strict requirements for premium quality."

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