All in the Family

For the Lebrun men, growing Merino wool is a family affair

The Source

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Over the past 200 years in Australia, the art of growing Merino wool has been improved and refined as skills and expertise are passed from one generation of farmer to the next. At 'Wullara' near Tumby Bay in South Australia, the Lebrun family keeps the tradition alive every day.

THREE'S COMPANY

Life on the land is never easy, but for three generations of the Lebrun clan, they wouldn't have it any other way. On 'Wullara' grandfather Will, father Dion and son Lenny make sure it stays all in the family.

"The beauty of the family all working together I suppose is there's three generations turn up to work in the morning, and they all do something constructive towards the business," says Dion. "Look at Dad, he's in his eighties and turns up to work every day."

But for Will, getting out in the paddocks each day is as much about pleasure as it is about duty.

"As long as you get enjoyment out of it, everybody wants to keep going as long as they can."

Wullara merino sheep farm

"It mightn't be the most lucrative job in the world but it’s the best job in the world for satisfaction and enjoyment." - Dion Lebrun

By virtue of simply growing up on the farm, Merino wool is in Dion and Lenny's blood. As a boy, Dion spent the day by his father’s side, riding around the property moving sheep with Will and, a generation on, his own son Lenny grew up shadowing Dion's every move.

"It's family time I suppose," says Dion.

"I never felt like you were never home," says Lenny. "I got to hang out with you and do whatever you were doing."

LIVING THE LIFE

No one in the Lebrun family is in any hurry to trade their life for the city rat race.

"You're never home, you've got to spend a long commute getting to and from work and then you come home, have tea and go to bed," says Dion.

And with each man's work, life and livelihood invested in 'Wullara', the Lebruns can collectively focus on producing the finest Merino wool for the world. But it's not all work and no play, far from it. Away from their woolly charges, Dion enjoys the physical demand of obstacle races such as Tough Mudder, Lenny likes to duck away with his board whenever the surf is good (a task made easier when dad is an understanding boss) and Will is a keen golfer.

"You've got to have something completely away from the farming situation to wind down," says Will. "Your sheep problems may still go through your mind but while you're away you can possibly come up with a solution that you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise."

Wullara merino sheep farm

Besides passing on artisan skills honed over decades of passion, each generation must make room for the next to make their own decisions - and mistakes - as they prepare to take over the business.

There are no guarantees, of course. Will even likens life on the farm to "legalised gambling".

But it’s a gamble that has paid off at 'Wullara'.

"It's a business, it's a way to make money," says Dion. "But it's also a lifestyle."

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