Gordon Stephenson Trophy Winners Keen To Spread Sustainability Message


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Left to right, Simon Saunders, Chairman of the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust, Catherine and John Ford, 2015 National Winners of the Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Bay of Plenty farmers John and Catherine Ford were thrilled to win the National Winner title in the 2015 Ballance Farm Environment Awards. And they can’t wait to get out there to spread the message that good environmental management and good farming go hand in hand.

New Zealand Farm Environment Trust (NZFE) chairman Simon Saunders says the Fords will be excellent ambassadors for New Zealand agriculture.

“Not only do they run an outstanding farming operation, they also have an exceptional ability to articulate the challenges and opportunities facing New Zealand agriculture.”

As new holders of the prestigious Gordon Stephenson trophy, the Rotorua sheep and beef farmers will act as ambassadors for the primary industry in a role that will take them around the country and beyond as they promote the importance of sustainable farming.

“We are very excited about that,” says John Ford.

“It’s a real honour, and I think we’ve got a great story to tell.”

The Ford’s farm, Highlands Station, is situated in a sensitive catchment area and one of their key reasons for entering the competition was to prove they were good caretakers of the land.

“We knew we were doing a good job, but having that confirmed by the judges of the Ballance Farm Environment Awards gave us credibility and a huge confidence boost.”

From the moment they entered the BoP awards, John, Catherine and their team tackled the challenge with gusto.

“The farm was looking pretty good, but our team went and double-checked it all just to make sure everything was as it should be. They are all as proud of the farm as we are, and they wanted to be sure it was in top shape for judging.”

The thought and energy that went into their farm presentation helped them win the Supreme title for the region. 

John says the award was a great acknowledgement of the contribution made by their farm staff and their agri-business advisers. He also credits their farm discussion group with providing further inspiration and motivation.

“Winning the National award was a big surprise, and again that was welcome recognition of everything that happens on the farm and everyone involved with it.”

As part of their role as ambassadors for NZ agriculture, the Fords will travel the country talking to farmers and industry representatives. They will also address a Parliamentary Select Committee and undertake an international study tour before presenting a final report to NZFE.

The Fords are looking forward to taking the sustainability message to a wider audience.
“I think the majority of New Zealand farmers care very much about environmental issues. But we can’t afford to be complacent, and we need to keep analysing our policies to ensure we are doing what is best for business and best for the environment.” 

Simon Saunders says John and Catherine’s win at the National Showcase in June capped off another great year for the annual farming contest, which is now recognised as the premier farming competition in New Zealand.

He says the awards programme is held in high regard because it plays a crucial role in developing a more sustainable agricultural sector.

“The programme helps farmers to build more sustainable businesses by providing them with a range of peer-learning forums and showcasing what the best are achieving.”

Mr Saunders says the strength of the awards lies in the people and industry groups who are passionate and dedicated to the success of the competition.

“Over the years the awards programme has built a massive network of volunteers throughout the regions and these volunteers make a huge commitment to driving the awards forward.

“And just as importantly, the awards are backed by an enthusiastic team of sponsors and partners who believe very much in what the awards are trying to achieve for the primary sector.”

Entries for the 2016 BFEA open on August 1, 2015.

For more information on the 2015 National Award recipients please click here

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