Greg and Gail Mitchell of Mitchell Dairy Farms have been announced as the Regional Supreme Award winners at the East Coast Ballance Farm Environment Awards this evening.
The couple started dairy farming in 1996 and formed the current business seven years later. In 2014, they relocated to Patoka to oversee the redevelopment of High Road Dairy farm. They now milk 1,550 cows that produce an average of 600,000kg of milk solids per year.
Under the guidance of Greg and Gail, High Road Dairy has gone from being rundown to a highly productive dairy unit, using an approach that balances profitability with caring for the environment.
A huge amount of work has gone into its transformation, with significant investment in infrastructure improvements including the restoration of a 1950s wool shed that now houses an office and accommodation. A new state of the art effluent management system was commended by the judges as going well beyond regulatory requirements in terms of storage and application.
The judges also noted the Mitchells’ commitment to continual improvement of sustainability outcomes, including the early adoption of technology where it can help to drive efficiencies in energy, water use and animal health. Additionally, their focus is on social as well as financial and environmental outcomes, and they are more than willing to give back and help others.
The East Coast BFEA event was held across two venues, in Napier and Gisborne, and live streamed to those who were unable to attend either venue in person. New Zealand Farm Environment Trust General Manager Sarah Harris said the format enabled greater connection across the region.
“Our awards events are all about celebrating some of the region’s amazing food and fibre producers; but they also provide a great opportunity to get together and connect with others in the industry,” she said.
Greg and Gail Mitchell also won the following awards:
· Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award
· Bayleys People in Primary Sector Award
· DairyNZ Sustainability and Stewardship Award
· Norwood Farming Efficiency Award
· Rabobank Agri-Business Management Award
Other East Coast Ballance Farm Environment Award winners include:
Paul and Sarah Williams — Turihaua Station
· Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Farm Award
· East Coast Farming for the Future Award
Stuart & Beatrice Spall and Jim & Christine Spall — Poporangi Farm
· Hill Laboratories Agri-Science Award
· NZFET Climate Recognition Award
Shane Janssen — Punawai Farm
· NZFET Biodiversity Award
Tim & Lucie Gilbertson — Waitakai Farm
· NZFET Innovation Award
The awards also served to showcase the Waimatā Catchment Group, which was formed in 2020 with the goal of improving the health of the Waimatā River, its tributaries and the wider catchment.
The Ballance Farm Environment Awards are run by the NZ Farm Environment Trust and champion sustainable farming and growing. The Supreme Winner from each of the eleven regions involved in the awards will go through to be considered for the Gordon Stephenson Trophy at the Trust’s National Showcase at Te Papa in May. The recipients of the Gordon Stephenson Trophy then become 2023’s National Ambassadors for Sustainable Farming and Growing.