The Makers: Ben Brooksby
Meet the woolgrower at the centre of a mental health campaign
Ever wondered what goes on before our Shleep products are ready for sale? In this series, The Makers, we offer a unique first-hand insight into the Australian wool industry, in partnership with the talented
Chantel Renae Photography.
Ben Brooksby wears many hats: Australian woolgrower, photographer and rural mental health advocate. Whilst he was born into a life on the land, all ‘hats’ go hand-in-hand, with both friends and strangers looking up to him for support, advice and a helping hand.
Growing up, Brooksby always had Merinos. The fifth-generation farmer grew up on the family’s farm in western Victoria, one of Australia’s premier wool-growing regions.
“The property that I grew up on, ‘Heatherlie’, was bought by my great-grandfather,” says Brooksby. “We had both sheep and cattle back in his days and have since bought other farms that have just grown and grown.”
In 2016, Brooksby reluctantly stripped off for a photoshoot, and has since found himself at the centre of an ongoing mental health campaign. Recognising that mental health illnesses are prevalent in farming communities across the world, Brooksby could not turn a blind eye. Instead, he started an Instagram page in 2017 to drive a campaign about mental health issues in rural Australia that has since captured the hearts and eyes across Australia and the world.
“I am a farmer myself, having dealt with mental health and losing an uncle to suicide it’s something that sits close to me. I decided that I had this tool at my fingertips, I might as well use it for good,” he said.
“I love to help people and I thought this might be a good way to educate others about mental health issues. It’s the people following the page, sharing, liking and sending in the photos, that are making the difference. They are The Naked Farmers.”
Back on the property, Brooksby’s passion is the 100% natural, renewable and biodegradable fibre that he lovingly produces. Touching the Shleep HalfMoon Pillow and Merino Jersey Swaddle, he was blown away that the fibre he grows can be turned into something so luxuriously soft.
“I’m gob-smacked, to be honest. If this is wool, I want undies made out of this.”
“This property, where we run all our sheep, is perfect for running Merinos. It has a place in my heart and within my family now. I lost my grandfather earlier this year and my first memory with him, I would have been a toddler and I would always bug him to ride the sheep. He would always take me into the catching pens and would let me ride them in the pen. He would then pop us up on the wool bales and let us stamp down the wool.
“There’s never a bad memory in the wool shed when you’re a kid. It’s always been my goal to pass our property onto the next generation and try and set them up for a stress-free life so to speak, although farming can be stressful. Giving them the best opportunity in life and give them this land to continue on would be an absolute honour.”