Judges Begin Search For National Winner Of Ballance Farm Environment Awards


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The New Zealand Farm Environment Trust has assembled a strong line-up of judges to decide the next recipients of the esteemed Gordon Stephenson trophy.

Comprising six people with a broad range of skills and experience, the National Winner Judging Panel will select the next trophy holders from the eleven Supreme winners in the 2016 Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA).

The recipients will be announced at New Zealand Farm Environment (NZFE) Trust’s National Sustainability Showcase in Northland on June 22, becoming 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.

This year’s National Winner Judging Panel is chaired by Ashburton dairy farmer Joanne van Polanen. Joanne has a long involvement with the BFEA, starting as a judging coordinator for the Canterbury region. She was appointed treasurer of NZFE Trust in 2010 and is currently deputy chairperson.

She says the judging panel has a tough job because the Supreme winners have already demonstrated exceptional farming skills and an outstanding commitment to sustainability.

“Choosing the next recipient of the Gordon Stephenson trophy is definitely a challenging task for the judges, but listening to entrants tell their inspirational stories also makes it an exciting and very enjoyable experience.”

The 2016 National Winner Judging Panel has a good balance of experience and new blood. Warwick Catto, Science Strategy Manager, Ballance Agri-Nutrients, Jamie Strang, NZFE Trust National Award Manager, and Charmaine O’Shea, an accountant, dairy farmer and Dairy Woman of the Year for 2014, are joined by new faces Stephen Hall and George Murdoch.

Stephen is Director of Operations for the Taranaki Regional Council and George is Rabobank Regional Manager for the East Coast.

Joanne says Stephen and George “came highly recommended” and their skills and experience will prove valuable during the second stage of judging.

Entrants are first visited on-farm by two judges – Jamie Strang and Warwick Catto – and the sustainability of their farming operation is assessed by focusing on the management of the physical farm environment, production and profitability. Judges also examine the entrant’s relationships and involvement with staff and the community.

Joanne says entrants are asked for their thoughts on the future direction of New Zealand agriculture and how their farming business many contribute to this.

“Jamie and Warwick love getting out and meeting the Supreme winners on their own farms and orchards. It’s a crucial part of the judging process.”

The second stage involves a 30-minute interview in front of the National Winner Judging Panel prior to the National Sustainability Showcase. Entrants will be 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.

Joanne says the presentation of the Gordon Stephenson trophy will have special poignancy this year. Gordon passed away at the end of 2015.

“The National Winner title was established to honour Gordon’s contribution to the success of the Awards programme. It was his wish that the recipient be held up as an ambassador for sustainable farming rather than being lauded as the best of the best. So the entire judging process has been respectfully formatted to achieve this.” Last year’s Gordon Stephenson trophy winners were Bay of Plenty sheep and beef farmers John and Catherine Ford.

For more information, contact: Joanne van Polanen, chairperson National Winner Judging Panel, ph 03 307 8155, 0274 401 539, email or David Natzke, General Manager, New Zealand Farm Environment Trust, phone 07 834 0400, email or visit www.bfea.org.nz

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