Schwass family produces sustainable felted Kaiora Downs Mats

Three years ago, driven by an unsustainable wool price, North Canterbury sheep and beef farmers Mark and Jane Schwass called a family meeting with their four adult children, and through a robust brainstorming session came up with a cunning plan for their wool.

While there is now some debate about which family member sparked the idea, the concept of a felted yoga mat was generated as a way of adding real value to the farm’s wool clip, giving birth to Kaiora Downs Mats.

“We sent some bales of wool down to the scourers in Timaru, and when it came back, it sat in our garage for nearly twelve months until we found a felter,” says Mark. “We eventually found a company in Christchurch, and they also do the dying and carding. The mats are then sent back to the farm for finishing and labelling. So the whole process is contained within the Canterbury region.”

“Our first mat was sold about 18 months ago. Last year we sold 500 mats, and we have the capacity to produce 5,000 mats from our annual wool clip.”

Currently selling for $135 through the Kaiora Downs Mats website, with free shipping throughout New Zealand, the yoga mats of 680mm x 1750mm come in a choice of charcoal or mint colours and are designed for a low – medium impact exercise session. A natural latex has been affixed to the back of the mat to help prevent slipping.

Being a natural product, Kaiora Downs Mats are totally recyclable and really fit in the yoga ethos of ‘from the earth and back to the earth’.

“There has been a lot of really positive feedback. Being a natural product, they are totally recyclable and really fit in the yoga ethos of ‘from the earth and back to the earth’. At the end of the mat’s life, you could upcycle it to pet bedding or weed-matting.”

“We can also make other products including a meditation mat, wellness mat, boot liners and a small cushion.”

“Country Life Radio did an article on us, and sales went crazy for a couple of weeks after that. We recently attended the Go Green Expo in Christchurch and made some good sales and contacts through that. We’ve attended the Hanmer Fete and last year attended the Canterbury A&P Show. Our daughter has also attended quite a few shows in Nelson.”

While there has been some international interest and overseas sales, most sales are currently within New Zealand, through the website. “We can also make other products including a meditation mat, wellness mat, boot liners and a small cushion. We’re actually working with some panel beaters at the moment who want something to put the finished product on so it didn’t get scratched.”

Located eight kilometres west of Culverden, Kaiora Downs encompasses 1,400 hectares of beautiful North Canterbury farmland, ranging from a small amount of irrigated flats, some rolling downs and quite a bit of hill country that rises to 550 metres above sea level.

“We have 3,500 ewes and 1,000 hoggets which we mate,” says Mark. “We also have 250 breeding cows. We keep the young heifers, select the replacement stock and sell the rest before the second winter. All steer calves are sold. We also do a bit of dairy heifer grazing. They arrive November/December and go home in-calf twenty months later in July.”

© Waterford Press Ltd 2024 – Independent Print Media New Zealand

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