The on-farm judging of the Regional Supreme Award winners for the Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) has recently been completed. Judges Warwick Catto and Jamie Strang travelled the length of the country from Kaeo in the north to Riverton in the south over a 3 week period to talk to these innovative food and fibre producers, and BFEA regional supreme winners, about their environmental sustainability initiatives. The properties visited included dairy and beef finishing, sheep, beef, deer, a milking goat farming operation and commercial vegetable growers.
Each of the 10 BFEA regional supreme winners spent time on their properties with Catto and Strang, representatives of the national judging panel from the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust, a charity set up to promote sustainable farming and growing and share knowledge and expertise within the farming community. The on-farm visits form a vital part of the judging process to name the winners of the esteemed Gordon Stephenson Trophy, named in honour of Waikato farmer and noted conservationist, the late Gordon Stephenson, at the National Sustainability Showcase in Wellington on March 25th.
Strang, a sheep and beef farmer in the Wairarapa who has been a national judge with Catto for the past 10 years, explained the purpose of the visits is to provide insights which are later explored in a formal interview. “The farm visits are a great opportunity to examine some of our award winners practices first-hand and to understand how they are striving to manage the land more sustainably.”
Catto, who manages science and agronomic matters for Ballance Agri-nutrients and is a longstanding BFEA national judge, said the diversity of land use and business acumen shown by the regional supreme winners was a particular highlight this year. “The increasing awareness and action on biodiversity is an area that is emerging. It is great to see a proactive focus around addressing water issues in the winners’ catchments,“ said Catto. ”The enhancements that these farmers and growers have made to the land and environment add to the asset value of the property as well as the aesthetics.”
The on-farm judging trip is a highlight for both Strang and Catto who enjoy meeting with passionate and inspirational farmers and growers and hearing about their innovations. “The use of technology, research and the latest testing methods to gather data has really stood out this year, as has the active contribution these couples and partnerships are making in their regions, contributing to local decision making,” said Strang
The judging panel now has the tough task of selecting the recipient of the Gordon Stephenson Trophy from an outstanding line-up of BFEA regional supreme winners:
Northland – Jeff Martin & Helen Linssen, Te Karoa Farms, Kaeo (Beef)
Auckland – Mathew & Sarah Bolton, Oete Goat Farm, Patumahoe – Franklin (Goat) Waikato – Mark & Felicity Brough, Paerua, Aria – Waitomo (Sheep & beef)
Taranaki – The Brown Family, Rukumoana Farms, Eltham & Stratford – South Taranaki (Sheep & beef)
Horizons – The Clarke Family, Woodhaven Gardens, Levin – Horowhenua (Commercial vegetable production)
East Coast – Evan & Linda Potter, Waipapa, Elsthorpe – Central Hawke’s Bay (Sheep, beef, deer)
Greater Wellington – Aidan Bichan, Neville Fisher and Vern Brasell, Kaiwaiwai Dairies, Featherston – South Wairarapa (Dairy)
Otago – Anna & Ben Gillespie, Two Farmers Farming, Omakau – Central Otago (Beef & dairy grazing)
Canterbury – Tony Coltman & Dana Carver, Canlac Holdings, Dunsandel – Selwyn (Dairy)
Southland – Geordie & Frances Eade, Granity Downs, Riverton – Southland (Sheep & beef)