The Broadcast / Finisterre Biosmock: Meet A Woolkeeper®

Finisterre Biosmock: Meet A Woolkeeper®

To build our first fully circular biodegradable jacket, we teamed up with our friends at HD® Wool Apparel Insulation, incorporating their innovative wool wadding into the garment. As well as being natural and renewable, the wool is fully traceable, right back to the four specific farms in South West England which grew it. With one farm just over the Tamar in South Devon, we headed up to meet Natasha…

17.01.22

4 min read

Written by Zak Rayment

Images by David Gray

Natasha Harris and her sheepdog Crocker
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Meet Natasha Harris (and Crocker)

Started over a decade ago by the team at HD® Wool Apparel Insulation, The Woolkeepers® initiative provides full traceability of wool from farm gate to factory door, linking brands with producers and giving transparency across the supply chain. In fact, our new Biosmocks come with a scannable tag that will tell you exactly where the wool used in the jacket has come from. One of the farms providing the wool is managed by Natasha. A fourth-generation farmer based in South Devon, we caught up over coffee to get the lowdown on her farm and flock.

How long have you farmed for and what drew you to farming?

I was born into farming but didn’t realise I loved it until a bit later than most. Our family farm was bought in 1956 by my great grandfather, and my husband and I now work here alongside my father. I went away to university at 18 and am a fully qualified chiropractor, I do two days off the farm in a clinic. My first job out of university was in Norfolk but when I moved back to Devon a year later, I thought I’d live on the farm while I worked out where to live permanently and have never left! Living and working on the farm again at 25 made me really appreciate and fall in love with it.

Turns out you can take the girl off the farm but can’t get the farm out of her blood!

Natasha and her first sheepdog, Crocker, share a special bond.

We even had the pleasure of meeting Natasha's grandfather.

Can you tell us a bit more about your family farm?

I work the farm with my dad, mum, husband and our dogs Crocker and Buddy. The farm is 300 acres of rolling hills with views across Dartmoor and we currently have 700 breeding ewes. The sheep are Poll Dorsets with a small number of Charolais, used for breeding rams. The land is well suited to them with lots of fields that are too steep to grow crops on. At the highest point of the farm you can see nine parish churches!

What relationship do you have with your sheep and how important is animal welfare to you?  

Around 20 years ago we started in a Waitrose lamb scheme and did our Red Tractor accreditation around the same time, and we’ve always been proactive on animal welfare. We’re also certified by SAI Global and just had our audit in May last year. Sheep are wonderful animals and you can’t farm only for money, it’s got to be for the love too. I really love walking the farm (you see more that way) and I love being anywhere I can see contented sheep and hear the gentle sound of them grazing, preferably in the sunshine!

Healthy land means healthy sheep. What kind of things do you do to ensure you achieve good soil health?

You’ve got to graze it right… We work hard to put back all the natural nutrients we can by spreading our own sheep muck from the sheds. We also do regular soil testing, and we try to make sure there’s good diversity in the grass leys, not just single species.

Will you be taking over the farm and if so, what is likely to change?

My husband and I will take on some of the farm when Dad retires, and my sister and her husband will have the rest. We are likely to have to keep less sheep due to reduced acreage, but we will always have sheep! We aim to farm in as sustainable a way as possible keeping inputs to a minimum and selecting for the best performing ewes.

Natasha & Alison From HD® Wool examine the raw wool produced by the flock.

Alison holds up a finished sheet of the insulating fill used in our Biosmock.

The Woolkeepers® is a traceable assurance platform, aligned with farming legislation that aims to pay a fairer price to the farmer for their wool. What does this type of sourcing model mean to you?

It genuinely gives you a greater sense of pride, knowing where your wool is going and that it's being used so well. British wool is such a brilliant product; it’s sustainable, biodegradable, renewable, natural and should be used this way more!

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The insulated wadding produced by HD® Wool Apparel Insulation, using the fibres from Natasha’s flock and built into our Biosmock, is renewable, naturally odour resistant and anti-bacterial, temperature regulating and provides unmatched moisture management. In short, all the reasons we love wool. Throw in the unparalleled traceability connecting customer to farmer, product to producer, and you have a truly special combination.

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