By M.J. Bale Staff
Simon Cameron, the fourth-generation owner of Tasmania’s Kingston farm, shares with us the heritage, soul and sustainability behind M.J. Bale’s Kingston Single-Source Suits.
"What we do at Kingston we do because we see it as the right thing to do to manage our animals and land. Others may use labels such as ethical animal management and managing land for conservation values… if it helps with an understanding of how the place runs, that’s fine.” — Simon Cameron
Kingston has had a chequered history and its fair share of characters.
The settler who put it on the map was John Batman — a very controversial figure — before he moved into real estate and founded Melbourne. There is debate about where Batman’s house is located on Kingston. It might be the 19th-century cottage that we currently use as the farm office, or there is a ruin a couple of kilometres away with a very curious, unidentified construction.
Following Batman at Kingston were three different owners, the last of which, the Bomford family, sold Kingston in 1905 to my great-grandfather, Cyril St. Clair Cameron. Three generations of our family farmed Kingston until 2004, at which point I took over after the death of my father.
Kingston is located in the Northern Midlands of Tasmania, about 65 kilometres south east of Launceston. Historically, it is part of a Tasmania that has a great tradition of producing high quality superfine wool. The importance of wool diminished over the years as the financial returns disappeared. There are still a few of us wool growers left in the district, but fat lamb breeding and cropping has become more attractive.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. To me, Kingston is a very special place. It is a place of great tranquillity, especially in the very early mornings and late summer evenings. It draws you in and the more you try to understand it the less you feel like you actually know it. Perhaps it is like a beautiful old wooden boat — better to have a friend that owns one, than the cost and responsibility of owning one yourself.
The richness of Kingston’s biodiversity takes a real expert to explain. I am only a beginner. The most distinguishing features are the lowland native grassland communities, as well as 14 threatened and endangered species, including breeding wedge-tailed eagles,Eastern and Spotted-tailed quolls, betongs, Tasmanian Devils and Green and Gold frogs. There have even been sightings of platypus in the Ben Lomond rivulet!
I see looking after Kingston as primarily biodiversity conservation.
What we do at Kingston we do because we see it as the right thing to do to manage our animals and land. Others may use labels such as ethical animal management and managing land for conservation values… if it helps with an understanding of how the place runs, that’s fine.
In our industry ethics is frequently used in terms of animal management, i.e how we treat our animals. The aspect that gets in the news is mulesing of sheep. We do not do this and haven’t done so for ten years.
Here at Kingston we strive to give our Merino sheep what we call our ‘Four Freedoms’: • Freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition • Freedom from discomfort, pain, injury and disease • Freedom to express normal patterns of behaviour • Freedom from fear and distress
Sustainability is a real challenge. It is extremely hard to make natural values pay. Kingston, because of its natural values, is unique. In an attempt to preserve the natural values I have made some significant commitments in relation to the farming activities undertaken to manage the land.
My first big commitment was to agree to conservation covenants for about 900 ha of Kingston — about a third of the farm. This meant that I could continue to use the land as part of my wool growing enterprise, but I could not develop it in any way.
The huge challenge for me is to make Kingston commercially viable. All the undeveloped country has to be managed and maintained to control weeds etc. At the outset I would have done much better to put my land into trees like my neighbour did, but had I done that Kingston’s natural values would have been lost forever.
M.J. Bale Kingston Suits
The support from M.J. Bale to produce the single-source Kingston Merino wool suits has been the tipping point for us and our future success. My comments may sound like a commercial; they are not meant to be. On one hand M.J. Bale is creating demand for Kingston wool, which will assist in the viability of wool production. On the other, the successful sale of these single-source Kingston suits is a critically important contribution to the maintenance of Kingston’s natural values.
The campaign imagery shot at Kingston before the launch was all about images. For me the underlying story, however, was traceability and re-connection. The models wearing the suits were mixing with some of the very sheep that had contributed to the fabric from which the suits were made, and they were doing this just where those sheep normally graze. Likewise, the shots in the shearing shed were not shots in any old shearing shed. It’s light years away from other brands that photograph models wearing smart clothes in rural settings, and owning one of the Kingston suits just brings it all together.
This morning talking to the M.J. Bale guys in terms of how much volume they are doing with the Kingston suits, it all started to sink in.
From my perspective, what an amazing outcome. M.J. Bale have taken a relatively untried concept with a story that consumers should but may not care about and made it work.
My sincere thanks to Matt Jensen for taking a risk with M.J. Bale, and for everyone at M.J. Bale, particularly Jono, Charm, Susie and Cassandra. My wholehearted thanks also to you, the M.J. Bale customer. What you have done by purchasing this Kingston suit has allowed me to turn my dream into a reality.