A 970ha sheep and beef farm near Weber, with more than a century of lifeblood flowing through its veins, is the 2019 Regional Supreme Winner in the Horizons Ballance Farm Environment Awards run by the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust.
The Ballance Farm Environment Awards champion sustainable farming and growing through an awards programme which sees one Regional Supreme Winner selected from each of the 11 regions involved. These Regional Supreme Winners will be profiled at the Awards’ National Sustainability Showcase in Hamilton, on Thursday 6 June, with each in the running for the Gordon Stephenson Trophy.
The Hales are the Regional Supreme Winners thanks to their determination and hard work. Raising their two small children, Rocky and Alby, while helping their business to thrive sustainably so it can endure and continue to succeed in the hands of future generations, the Hales have enjoyed an impressive journey to date.
In 2010, the Hales created a business with Simon’s parents, to allow Simon to take on full-time management of both their blocks, Takapau and Kereru. In 2014, the neighbours block named Claudelands – once farmed by the Hales family – came on the market. Simon and Trudy purchased this block and amalgamated it with the neighbouring Kereru block. In June 2018, the Hales then purchased the Kereru Block from Simon’s parents as well as their shares in the farming company.
Today they carry 3850 ewes with a lambing percentage of 134-145%. Last year, the Hales weaned 145% at an average weight of 30kg. Their cattle policy is relatively flexible and dependent on markets.
The Hales are equally concerned with improving their land with a vision to leave it in the best state possible. This has manifested in plans for a future programme of native planting to improve the farm’s aesthetics and to mitigate the effect of soil loss through erosion; a decision that illuminates the Hales’ significant soil knowledge.
Other commendable features on the Hales’ property include the retirement or exclusion of the the majority of the Akitio River from stock; Trudy’s propagation of native seedlings with seeds sourced locally or on farm, which will be planted within riparian areas; allowing areas to revert to scrub for biodiversity values; and the development of a health and safety plan.
The judges said of the Hales’ achievements: “Simon and Trudy show strong forward-thinking. They run their property with the environment in mind and want leave it in a good state for their future generations.”
Of their decision to enter the awards the Hales say: “So many farmers are committed to ‘doing the right thing’ and we would like to see greater recognition of this. Like anything, doing what’s right isn’t always what’s easy, particularly when it comes to making financial commitments, but we are willing to make those investments.”
This year, Simon and Trudy Hales are the esteemed recipients of not only the Supreme Regional Award but also the:
Bayleys People in Primary Sector Award – focused on the all-important people side of the farming and growing business;
Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Farm Award – recognises the livestock farmer who demonstrates the need for long-term land and animal stewardship;
Norwood Agri-Business Management Award – for farmers accomplishing the important management practices of operating a successful farm business;
Predator Free NZ Trust Predator Free Farm Award – recognises the efforts of land managers to successfully control animal predators to achieve native biodiversity outcomes;
Fonterra Farm Stewardship Award – this award is for the creation of special places on farm and may include protection and/or enhancement of cultural, historic, or unique natural or manmade features.
Each year, the Ballance Farm Environment Awards’ ceremonies, the National Sustainability Showcase and winners’ field days offer a unique, pan-sector forum for networking and the sharing of ideas and information among farming/growers peers, agribusiness professionals and the wider community.