The Makers: Pete and Kimble Thomas
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.
Outback Queensland is home to wide open plains, horizons that never end and bush characters. In the midst of all that is the Thomas family – Australian woolgrowers living a life full of respect for the land beneath their feet, strong family values and a love of wool.
Kimble and Pete Thomas met at their local pub in Ilfracombe. Pete, a fifth-generation woolgrower and Kimble, a former station cook, have pushed through the harsh, dry times of outback Queensland, to now proudly carry on the family heritage. Their property ‘Beaconsfield’ has been in Pete’s family since 1911 and it’s a legacy he and his wife are set to continue.
The sixth generation of the Thomas family, Hamish, Peggy, Lucy and Bess, are already taking part in the family business and help out where they can. With the children attending the Longreach School of Distance Education, they learn at home, which allows them to still get plenty of hands-on time with the sheep and the day-to-day running of ‘Beaconsfield’.
“To see the whole process of wool, to have the sheep here and understand how they grow and how we look after them all the way through is pretty special,” says Pete. “Then shearing them, the kids get to see the whole beginning to end and it gives them a deeper appreciation for wool. When everyone is out in the yards and everyone is enjoying, that’s when you catch yourself thinking that I really love this. I love my job.”
Pete and Kimble are especially grateful for the flexibility life on the land provides. “The kids will often be drafting in the morning, distance ed allows them to be more involved with what’s going on. They can be in the yards until on-air time, or muster until they need to be in the school room. We rely on them really, especially not having any other staff.”
The importance of teaching their children to respect and nurture their sheep and the land is incredibly important to Pete and Kimble and something they focus on strongly in their sheep husbandry. After all, happy, healthy sheep produce the best wool.
“There is something magical about having an animal where you are trying to balance the environment and work with what it provides you to breed healthy animals. When you feed them right, they will produce for you. Why wouldn’t you want to be in an industry when you’re growing something from nature – the water, soil and grass – and you’re producing this incredible wool.”
“You’re not going to get a healthy animal that produces wool if you haven’t treated it properly and looked after it all the way through. It’s in our and the animals’ best interest to look after them the best we can.”
“When you can nurture something and know that you’ve helped an animal, just like you help a person you feel so good for it. It’s therapeutic. Even when it comes to the mobs of sheep, when you’re raising healthy sheep, you get some pride out of that. It is quite therapeutic being out mustering a paddock and seeing the sunrise over your sheep.”
As woolgrowers, the Thomas family knows all-too-well the fibre’s eco-credentials. 100% natural, renewable and biodegradable, it’s the ultimate fibre for conscious consumers. Sustainable farming practices and a genuine care for environmental health also contribute to wool’s positioning as the green thread in luxury homewares, which is one of the main reasons we at Shleep choose wool.
But it’s not only wool’s eco-credentials that the Thomas’ love; it’s the fibre’s health benefits too. In fact, wool is greatly favoured in their home and it is the only fibre trusted for their much-needed good night’s sleep for their long days on the land.
“I naturally gravitate towards wool products when I see them on the rack,” add Kimble. “I always find myself looking on the tag to see if it is wool. The product always seems to be really enhanced by the natural product of wool and being part of the wool industry, it’s always nice to be able to buy back wool.
“I sleep in wool socks and have a woolen doona that we have used since we were married 20 years ago. My sister gave it to us when she moved to Kunnanurra and I don’t want her to move back because I will have to give her blanket back. If we ever had to replace it, we would by wool again, no doubt about it. I wouldn’t want to change for anything because I can’t fault it. I’ve washed the blanket but never had to wash the doona; I’ve hung it out on the line a couple of times to air it, but that’s it.”
“We love wool, we grow wool and we use wool,” says Pete. “We’re passionate about sheep and nurturing the animal to produce the best wool they can. The whole challenge of making the best wool product is really satisfying. Having a healthy animal in its environment.”