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  • Writer's pictureJon Ruwolt

Hummocks Station's Farm to Yarn

Rosemary Michael, of Hummock's Station at Snowtown in South Australia, has set up business transforming 100% Merino wool from her own family farm into yarn and knitted products, with the processing and manufacture done entirely in Australia.

Snowtown farmers are on a mission

to improve the area's reputation and promote agritourism

  • Hummocks Station was established in the early 1860s and now includes function rooms and a caravan park

  • A state government grant helped restore historic buildings on the farm to their former glory

History

Hummocks Station has a great history that officially started off back in 1851 with sheep grazing and has been owned by some of Australia’s greatest pioneering families, Captain John Ellis and Robert Barr Smith.


The Michael family has been farming at Snowtown in South Australia since 1873.

  • The first Michael farm was at Gum Park, then at Percyton, now Barunga Gap.

  • Mr. John Michael purchased land around the Hummocks Range in 1873.

He selected land along the Barunga ranges south west of Snowtown which were part of Hummocks Station.

  • The old stone house at Hummocks Station was known as Barunga Station, and dates back to the early 1860s.

  • It is situated at 45 Barunga Homestead Road, Snowtown.

The Barunga Homestead was described by the Surveyor General, Mr. Goyder in 1864 as a “substantial 9 roomed stone house and cellar, newly built”.


Mr John Michael was prominent in the push for a railway line from Barunga Gap to Wallaroo, so that farming produce could be directly exported from shipping at Wallaroo.

  • Around the homestead animals were watered and grazed during the shearing of up to 34500 sheep in the 1800’s.

Hummocks Station land sales

When the government began resuming lands for the creation of the Hundreds of Barunga and Cameron in 1869, John Ellis sold the leasehold lands of his Hummocks and Barunga runs to Robert Barr Smith and John Maslin.

  • At this time the old Barunga homestead became known as the Hummocks homestead as it still is today.

  • Robert Barr Smith of Torrens Park house gave the Hummocks run to his son Tom Elder Bar Smith in 1899.

In 1918 at the end of World War One Tom Barr Smith put the almost 30,000 acre freehold estate up for sale and the government bought it for closer settlement.

  • Tom sold it for £151,000 on a walk-in walk-out basis.

  • It comprised nearly 30,000 acres, and at the time carried 22,000 sheep, horses, and cattle, including a valuable stud flock.

The Hummocks Station and Barunga Homestead were then bought by Trooper Phillip Wheaton of the Third Light Horse Regiment, who purchased 904 acres including the old Hummocks station homestead, outbuildings, shearers’ quarters etc for £5,130 in 1921.

  • His descendants farmed this property until 1997.

  • Hummocks Station was again offered for Sale in 2011, and was finally purchased by Leachim 's Michael Family, situated to the south of the Hummocks Station, for almost a half million dollars in 2016.

  • AUG 1998 SOLD for $106k by PRIVATE TREATY

  • OCT 2011 SOLD for $460k by PRIVATE TREATY

  • NOV 2016 SOLD for $475k by PRIVATE TREATY - Source

Andrew is well known in the industry for his passion to breed the best sheep possible.

  • Andrew and Rosemary Michael and family purchased the 15 acres around the homestead to run it as an accommodation and function centre.

Hummocks homestead, dating from 1858, must be one of only a dozen or so homesteads built in the 1850s in South Australia and still occupied.

  • It is a very unique property with a fascinating history.


"The Michael's passion just shines through, to restoring what are some of those beautiful old buildings and keeping them alive, and their incredible commitment to sustainability," she said.

"You can't help but be excited by what they do, and I thank them for their leadership."

The family’s current farm and stud, Leahcim, is run by the sons and families of Andrew and Rosemary Michael.

  • Rosemary shares Andrew’s enthusiasm for sheep and also has a keen interest in crafting wool.

  • The "touch, taste and smell experience" is growing because in the city people were so removed from the process of our food production.

Farm to Yarn to You

Rosemary Michael of ‘Leahcim’ at Snowtown in South Australia has set up business transforming 100% Merino wool from her own family farm into yarn and knitted products, with the processing and manufacture done entirely in Australia.

Given the effort they put into growing quality Merino wool, the Michaels recently decided to take some of their own wool through the supply chain themselves and have it processed and made into yarn and end-products, thereby enabling them to market the yarn/products with a unique provenance and traceability story.

  • They began their venture at shearing in October 2019, when some of the best fleeces from their mixed aged ewes, 17-micron with 8.5 months’ wool growth, was handpicked to make up a bale.

  • It was important for Rosemary that the wool processing takes place in Australia, so that the yarn is 100% Australian processed as well as Australian grown.

Rosemary and Andrew drove the bale of wool to EP Robinson in Geelong for scouring, from where it was taken to Cashmere Connections at Bacchus Marsh to be made into wool top.

  • Rosemary kept some of the top, with the remainder sent to Wangaratta Woollen Mills for spinning.

  • Rosemary says the production process took nine months, and it was with great anticipation that she opened the first boxes of yarn to assess what the quality was like.

“After many years of Leahcim breeding poll Merino sheep, using every bit of available technology, to produce sheep that are ethically and sustainably managed, and still tick all the boxes for meat and wool quality, I was hoping I wasn’t going to be disappointed with what was inside,” she said.

  • “My first thought was, ‘It looks good’.

  • Secondly, I put my hand on some wool on the cone, ‘It feels particularly good’.

  • Then once I started weaving and hand dyeing the spun wool, all I can say is, it is so soft and beautiful to handle and takes the dye colours so well.

“For the past year, we have been selling the yarn, under the name Leahcim Wool

– farm to yarn to you.

  • It has been a major part of my life since those first boxes of spun woollen yarn arrived back at Leahcim Farm and I’m enjoying every aspect of this beautiful product.”

“Probably, the most exciting thing during the past couple of years is the reaction we get from everyone who takes the time to lay their hands on this 100% home grown, Australian product.

  • It is this reaction that makes me realise, we have something very special,” she said.

  • “Along with the wool, people love the fact they are talking with the farmers that grow the wool on their own family farm, and that it has been fully grown and processed without leaving Australian shores.

  • “There are a lot of people out there today that are looking for products that are ethically and sustainably produced.

  • At Leahcim, we are doing everything possible to keep our part of the planet as sustainable as possible, so we can pass on this great land that we have inhabited to many generations to come.”

Hummocks Station Wool

Hummocks Station was established in the early 1860s and now includes restored shearers quarters for accommodation, a caravan park and many original outbuildings.

  • "It's one of the oldest sheep stations in South Australia, it was actually owned by Barr Smith and Thomas Elder which are well known to the argibusiness [community]," Mr Michael said.

  • "We tell people about the history of Snowtown, especially Hummocks because it's a great story, and its history is as good as anywhere in South Australia."

  • When Mr Michael returned from holiday he had an idea to restore the remaining buildings on Hummocks Station.

"It's about connecting city to country and history to the future," he said.

Andrew Michael's Leachim Family

Snowtown farmers Andrew and Rosemary Michael wanted to make a change when they realised how tarnished the town's reputation was on a holiday to the Northern Territory.

  • Even as we mentioned Snowtown everyone knew Snowtown — but for the wrong reasons," Mr Michael said.

  • "Even when I was on a fishing charter, as soon as I mentioned where I came from, everyone wanted to know about it, and I thought, 'This is ridiculous'."


The couple are no strangers to the Snowtown murders.

  • They owned the former bank when eight bodies in six acid-filled barrels were found inside it's vault in 1999.

  • "It was our first off-farm investment, so it isn't the best investment we've ever had, but it was just unfortunate," Mr Michael said.

"And from our point of view it was just really sad the way it ... gives the wrong thoughts and that's the reason we've done what we have."


But that's not what they want people to think of when they visit Snowtown.


Government Heritage Grant

Wakefield Council told the Michaels about a state government tourism heritage grant which they applied for and were successful, receiving $50,000 in funds to restore the old trap shed and stables to their former glory of 170 years ago.

The trap shed was transformed into a modern wool store and the stables an entertainment area.

Mr Michael said the project wouldn't have taken place without preservation architect David Marshall, who managed it from start to finish.

"He is unbelievably switched on, and we're just so fortunate that he lives in our area," he said.

A long restoration process

The restoration process took 15 months and cost in excess of $150,000, but the Michaels said it was all worth it when they recently invited friends, family and public figures to the grand opening of the buildings and the launch of a wool store on May 19, 2023.

Among the invited guests was SA Tourism Minister Zoe Bettison, and it wasn't her first time visiting the station — after her mum and dad stayed there and recommended she visit.

"I have an interest in agritourism because not only is it showing people the heritage, but how you can still actively engage [with farms]," she said.

"The Michaels passion just shines through, to restoring what are some of those beautiful old buildings and keeping them alive, and their incredible commitment to sustainability," she said.

"You can't help but be excited by what they do, and I thank them for their leadership."


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