Hill-Country Farmers Claim Top Award in 2015 Bay of Plenty Ballance Farm Environment Awards


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Rotorua sheep and beef farmers John and Catherine Ford have been named Supreme Winners of the 2015 Bay of Plenty Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA).

The Fords own 1240ha Highlands Station – a large hill-country farm, south of Rotorua. 

Sitting within the Lake Tarawera and Rotokakahi catchment, the Central Plateau farm’s distinctive contour was shaped by volcanic activity which flattened forests, carved out hill faces and left the area covered in Phosphate-rich mud.

John Ford’s father, Allen, began developing the farm in the early 1930s and John and Catherine bought it from family in 1995.

In their feedback report, BFEA judges noted the Ford’s “strong family history of commitment to agriculture”. The well-maintained farm has a “much loved feel”, they said, and its outstanding meat and wool production puts the property among New Zealand’s leading sheep and beef farming operations.

Judges said the Fords are very careful to manage the volcanic soils appropriately, with farm management practices matching the capabilities and catchment of the land. Highlands Station also has extensive native bush areas, including 140ha under QE II National Trust covenants.

Stock performance on Highlands Station is excellent. Sheep resilience is a key priority and the Fords have introduced Romney genetics to improve robustness and facial eczema tolerance.

Bull calves are purchased in November and sold after 15-months. Rising 3-year cattle are used to control surplus feed in the hill country, and all cattle are weighed regularly so that staff can benchmark production against past averages and targets.

Judges also noted John’s passion for minimising erosion on the challenging contour.  A network of almost 200 retention dams has been created to reduce run-off and scouring during heavy rainfall. This well-designed dam system also mitigates P loss.

Judges commended John’s understanding of water dynamics, “both above and below the ground”.

They also praised John and Catherine’s “effective and outstanding staff management programme”. The Fords are very aware of encouraging and guiding staff, they said. Staff culture is an asset and staff members take real pride in the farm.

A BFEA Supreme-Winner field day will be held on Highlands Station on Tuesday, March 31.

Winners in the 2015 Bay of Plenty Ballance Farm Environment Awards were;

Supreme Award, Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award and Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Award: John and Catherine Ford, Highlands Station, Rotorua.

Zespri® Kiwifruit Orchard Award, Massey University Innovation Award and Hill Laboratories Harvest Award: Phillipa Wright and Stephen Kenna, KWKIWI Limited, Katikati.

LIC Dairy Farm Award: Corrie and Donna Smit, Corona Farms Limited, Edgecumbe.

WaterForce Integrated Management Award: Geoff and Gerda Bradly, Nga Rakau Farm, Whakatane.

Donaghys Farm Stewardship Award: Tataiwhetu Trust, Tataiwhetu Farms Limited, Ruatoki/ Taneatua.

PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award: Te Kaha 14B2 Trustees / TKG / OPAC, Hamama, Te Kaha.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council Award 1: Tony and Margo Cairns, Oturoa Properties Limited, Rotorua.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council Award 2: Geoff and Billie Dobbs, GN and BH Dobbs, Katikati.

For more information on the 2015 BoP Ballance Farm Environment Awards and the Supreme Award field day, contact BFEA Regional Coordinator Kirsten Winter, phone (0275) 721 244 or email .

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