A Bay of Plenty sheep and beef farmer is encouraging landowners to enter the Ballance Farm Environment Awards for the personal growth and business feedback as well as helping to tell farming’s good stories.
Sheep and beef farmers Carol and David Hodge were regional finalists in 2018 with their 200ha family trust farm at Pikowai between Te Puke and Whakatane. While proud of what they have achieved, Carol says they hadn’t sought attention for the extensive retirement work on the farm until a barrage of anti-farming rhetoric during the 2018 general election. “I felt it was important to let the general public know the positive work farmers are doing for the environment,” Carol said at the time.
Looking back, Carol says she’s delighted they entered. They were first-time entrants and she was nervous about the process. ‘But I shouldn’t have been. They look at what you’ve done, what you’re doing and what you plan to do. I knew I needed to improve my water supply and one of the judges gave me some valuable information from his personal farm experience. Another piece of feedback was the need to improve our recording and book work. It was like our own private or personal discussion group with three people who were experts in their fields. I definitely wouldn’t mind entering in the future. They built up my confidence and were positive about what we were doing.”
She says it didn’t take much time to prepare the judging. “It was mainly getting together the information we wanted to show them. It’s all there, we just gathered it together for them – things like the health and safety plan and showing all your systems are in place.”
The couple won the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Award, Treeline Native Nursery Farm Stewardship Award and a Bay of Plenty Regional Council Environmental Award.
Environmental work is Carol’s passion and she has found ways to enhance and protect waterways without compromising farm productivity. Detention dams with culverts have been built in flood-prone paddocks to hold back and slow the release of water, reducing erosion and flooding. The largest area of retirement and planting is in a former steep paddock, bounded by a stream, which was hard to manage. “There’s a lot of water on this farm,” Carol says. There are also a growing number of trees – as well as riparian and retirement planting Carol says the farm has two willows planted in every paddock to stop erosion and also offer shelter.
At the time of judging, Carol was farming one farm – the 200ha that was judged – and David was farming another 240ha property. Their son Tony has now leased the larger block, leaving Carol and David to farm together. ‘We used to manage them separately, which worked for us, now we’re trying to work together again,” she says with a laugh. “Succession came up in the judging process. One of the biggest bits of feedback was to write down the expectations for all the parties – that’s us, Tony and his family and bringing our daughter Katie into the equation as well.”
Since judging, Carol and Tony have bought a Coopworth stud – 120 stud ewes and 160 hoggets – to add to their 500 commercial Coopworth ewes and 200 ewe hoggets (lambed). “We’ve been buying facial eczema-tolerant rams from that flock for 15 years. It was one of the original flocks in the FE Gold testing. The first line up of ram hoggets will be for sale in November.” They calve 110 Angus cows and 40 heifers and finish the progeny to two-year-olds, although this year they were sold earlier than normal because of the wet ground.
Entries are open in the Bay of Plenty region until Friday October 19 with first and second round judging to follow.
Regional judging coordinator Joanna Carr says the judging process covers a range of topics from soil, water, riparian and stock management through to in-business practice, health and safety and community interests. The judging teams include farmers and agribusiness experts from around the region.
The regional awards evening will be on Friday February 22, 2019 at the ASB Baypark Arena in Mt Maunganui and the winner’s field day will be on Tuesday March 26, 2019.
The 2018 Bay of Plenty supreme winners, Opotiki organic kiwifruit growers Mark and Catriona White, went on to win the national Gordon Stephenson Trophy to become the national ambassadors for the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust.
For more information please contact the regional coordinator Kirsten Winter on 027 5721 244 or .