Increased action by Canterbury farmers to address environmental issues has been reflected in a rise in entries in the prestigious Ballance Farm Environment Awards this year.
Fourteen “high quality” entries were received which surpassed expectations, says Canterbury chair Janet Gregory.
“Sometimes you’ve got to twist a few elbows and do a bit of coercing but this year there were a lot of people who entered off their own initiative which is great.
“There is more awareness of the awards but also there’s a greater awareness of the need to share their stories about what they’re doing in a positive way on-farm,” Gregory says.
The 14 entrants have been whittled down to six finalists with the supreme winner to be named at a function on March 14.
The finalists are Hawarden dairy farmers David and Brenda Hislop, Mark Daly, and Janet Girvan, Culverden sheep and beef farmers Mark and Jane Schwass, Waipara winemaker Nick Gill, Hayden George of Ngāi Tahu Farming, Eyrewell Forest, Ealing dairy farm manager Sam Mallard and David Bielski, manager of Craigmore Station, Maungati.
Three teams of judges visited the entrants who represented a wide range of rural businesses, including dairy, dairy support, sheep and beef, deer, arable, winemaking, beekeeping and forestry.
“We make sure that within each team there’s an expert on the type of industry that we’re judging. So for instance there was a vineyard so we made sure there was someone from the viticulture industry who was part of that team,” says Gregory.
She says the increase in entries seems to mirror the greater scrutiny being given to farming’s environmental impact.
“We cover the range of issues and how people are managing them – waterways, nutrient management, soil management, biosecurity, and social issues including how they’re connecting with their local community.
“We always aim for about six finalists but if there are two or three vying for that last spot, we go back to those key issues we’re dealing with in Canterbury and how well each is performing against those.”
Gregory says the awards are important in publicising the good work many farmers are doing to protect the environment.
“The key issue is that we’re all learning off each other about what works in different places. You can always learn off something someone else is doing and adapt it for your property. It’s sharing these stories and information which is the powerful part.”
Tickets for the Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards dinner on 14 March in Christchurch are available at www.bfea.org.nz
For more information:
Janet Gregory, BFEA Canterbury chair: 027 222 4005