Farm Environment Judges Prepare To Select Gordon Stephenson Trophy Holder


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Photo Left to Right: Bruce Wills, Paul Lamont, Charmaine O’Shea, Jamie Strang, Warwick Catto, Andrew Newman

With the regional Ballance Farm Environment Awards all wrapped up for another year, it’s time to select a National Winner.

The next holder of the prestigious Gordon Stephenson Trophy will be chosen from the ten regional Supreme winners of the 2015 Ballance Farm Environment Awards. The winner will be announced at the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust’s National Showcase in Wellington on June 24.

Bruce Wills, chairman of the National Winner judging panel, says finding a National Winner is hard because all the entrants are at the top of their game. But his team is ready for the challenge.

“Two of our judges – Jamie Strang and Warwick Catto – are travelling around the country visiting the Supreme winners and taking another good, hard look at their farming operations. Then, just before the National Showcase, we gather all the Supreme winners together and the judging panel begins the tough job of choosing the best from the best.”

Other members of the panel include Paul Lamont, a regional manager for Rabobank, and Charmaine O’Shea, an accountant, dairy farmer and 2014 winner of the Dairy Woman of the Year. Joining the team this year is Andrew Newman, CEO of the Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company Ltd.

“It’s a real pleasure to welcome Andrew on board as a representative for local Government,” says Mr Wills.

“Regional councils have been highly supportive of the Ballance Farm Environment Awards and it’s crucial that regulators and landowners continue to work side by side to ensure environmental obligations are met. Andrew’s expertise and experience will be a real asset to the National Winner judging panel.”

Mr Wills says the Supreme winners have already demonstrated exceptional farming skills and outstanding commitment to sustainability, so the key challenge for the panel is to find champions that can go out beyond the farm gate and be great ambassadors for New Zealand agriculture.

During the on-farm judging process, entrants are assessed on the sustainability of their farming operation, with judges focusing on the management of the physical farm environment, production and profitability, and relationships and involvement with staff and the community. Entrants are also asked for their thoughts on the future direction of New Zealand agriculture and how their farming business many contribute to this.

The second stage involves a 30-minute interview in front of the judging panel where entrants are asked to comment on New Zealand agriculture and its position in the international marketplace. They also outline their values and strategies relating to their farm, leadership, urban and rural relationships, and future threats and opportunities for NZ agriculture.

Mr Wills says judges will be looking for a number of qualities, including strong communication and leadership skills. 

“The reality is that our farmers continue to lighten their environmental footprint, so judging the National Winner isn’t getting any easier,” he says.

“It’s a tough job, but getting to know the Supreme award winners is a real privilege and it’s an inspirational experience we all enjoy.” 

Last year’s Gordon Stephenson trophy winners were Canterbury dairy farmers Mark and Devon Slee.

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