The relocation of an alpaca farm and woolen mill to Ballarat will add a popular ‘paddock to product’ activity to the area and create a new tourist map.
Great Ocean Road Woolen Mill, now known as GOR Woolen Mill, is in the process of moving its alpacas to Burrumbeet and installing new machinery in Delacombe.
The move of the company’s former home to Ecklin South near Timboon was prompted by the need to be on a larger site to meet the demand for their alpaca fiber and be located closer to their customer base. .
Owners Nick and Isabel Renters had a big week to unpack seven cases of new wool processing machines from Italy at their factory in Delacombe.
We are very passionate about what we do and love taking people with us on these journeys.
They said they were patiently awaiting the delivery which was originally supposed to arrive in November but was delayed due to COVID-19 and shipping.
“It’s a big expansion,” Renters said.
“COVID hit and we’ve been really busy… We were struggling to keep up with demand and thought we had to expand somehow and decided to take the plunge.”
Mr Renters said the new equipment would enable the company to increase production by four to five times and become Australia’s third largest woolen mill.
“To do this we needed a lot more energy than we could get on our Ecklin South property and we were also going to need staff to help us out,” he said.
“We’ve been to Ballarat before and we really love it. There’s a huge artisan community in Ballarat already and a lot of our clientele are in the neighborhood. It really made sense.
“Hopefully in the next three weeks everything will be unpacked, installed and commissioned and will be operational by early May.”
The Delacombe factory is a new home for new woolen spinning machines which have the capacity to process large quantities of wool and wool blends.
The long-term plan is to set up a second processing site in Burrumbeet with machines that require less horsepower and can process small amounts of fiber that can be traced back to a single alpaca.
“You can have Evie’s sons standing on the other side of the shed,” Ms Renters said.
Mr and Mrs Tenants are awaiting the outcome of a planning application with the City of Ballarat to build a house and woolen mill on the site, expecting the outcome to be in within weeks.
They plan to live on the site, which will make it easier to care for sick and elderly animals, including a 19-year-old alpaca who has no teeth and needs supplemental feeding.
They hope to take the facility completely off the grid and create a center for tourism and education, allowing people to see the alpacas and how the wool is processed.
“In a world that is increasingly environmentally conscious and questioning offshore production, what better way to highlight what can and should be done locally,” says a planning permission report.
“Previously, much of the Australian alpaca clip was sent to Peru for processing and then to the global yarn market, making traceability and other such information virtually impossible.”
Guests can tour the property to see the alpacas, learn how the fiber is processed, and purchase yarn and products like hats and scarves.
Mr. and Mrs. Renters said they hope to achieve this vision by the summer.
They said they felt so welcome in Ballarat and loved that so many people in the community were excited about their business.
“We’re very passionate about what we do and love taking people on these journeys with us,” Ms Renters said.
The couple’s business in alpaca farming and wool processing began after they moved to Ecklin South for a tree change.
Wanting cattle on their large property, they realized over time that they loved alpacas.
Mr Renter said it was difficult to find someone to process the fiber for their alpacas and the more they studied they realized that a lot of alpaca fiber from across the countryside was going to waste.
“We thought we would step in. In 2015 our first batch of equipment came from Canada and since then it has been living, learning and working on what would work for us,” Renters said.
“Once we started making yarn for retail, we found a real gap in the market because there aren’t a lot of yarns made in Australia.”
Mr. and Mrs. Renters met in Thailand after the 2004 tsunami, got married and lived in Warrnambool, where Mr. Renters grew up.
Ms. Renters is originally from Germany and has previously lived in England.
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The story The woolen mill will be one of Australia’s largest first appeared on The mail.