Keen-To-Learn Farmer Turns to Ballance Farm Environment Awards for Information and Inspiration


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Returning to the family farm five years ago was an in-the-deep-end experience for Waikato farmer James Bailey and his wife Ella.

‘Momona’, a 440ha (effective) Tirau sheep and beef farm, had been in the Bailey family for five generations, so James was eager to start off on the right foot. While he was mindful of the work performed by past generations, he was also keen to improve the environmental sustainability of the business.

James, a keen surfer, is co-founder of Sustainable Coastlines – an award-winning registered charity that organises coastal clean-ups, educational programmes and riparian plantings.

“So I’m very aware that what we do on the farm is ultimately going to impact on the sea.”

He and Ella moved onto the farm in 2008, initially working alongside James’ parents Richard and Pamela.

Eager to learn as much as he could, James turned to a number of different sources for information, including his late father, rural professionals and a discussion group.

The Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) also provided another great educational opportunity.

James and Ella entered the competition for the first time last year and were “very surprised” to pick up two category awards, including the Donaghys Farm Stewardship Award. This award recognises the creation of special places on the farm and the “protection or enhancement of wetlands, landscape features or historic places”. Judges also look for management systems that improve productivity and sustainability.

James says he was encouraged to enter the competition by other farmers who had been involved in the past. They told him it was “a great learning experience”.

The Baileys had already made a number of changes on the farm, including altering the stocking policy to better match land use and covenanting 9.3ha of land to the QE II National Trust. With the help of the regional council, the Baileys have also designed an environmental plan that helps them prioritise and plan their projects.

“We are still chipping away at it,” says James.

“It is definitely a work in progress.”

BFEA judges commended James’ passion for the environment, noting “he sees himself as a caretaker of the land”.

Their involvement in the Ballance Farm Environment Awards reassured the Baileys that they were heading in the right direction as far as environmental sustainability goes. James says he learned a lot from the experience.

“I really enjoyed the process. It was great to have the judges visiting the farm twice. That outside expert perspective opens up your mind to different possibilities.”

James and Ella, who also picked up the PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award, are now enthusiastic supporters of the competition and plan to enter again in future.

“I’d definitely encourage other farmers to give it a go,” says James.

“You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.”

Entries for the 2014 competition are now open. Entering the Ballance Farm Environment Awards is easy. Information and entry forms are available on-line at

For more information on the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, contact David Natzke, General Manager, New Zealand Farm Environment Trust, phone 07 834 0400, .

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