Waikato residents and 2014 BFEA Supreme Winners for the region, Mike and Sharon Barton have continued on their quest to promote sustainable farming practices.
Having sold their farm two years ago and no longer farming commercially, they are now concentrating on the business they founded, Taupo Beef and Lamb.
Taupo Beef and Lamb is a joint initiative between Taupo catchment farmers and the Lakes & Waterways Action Group Trust and is supported by Waikato Regional Council, Enterprise Taupo, and Destination Great Lake Taupo. Founded in 2011, the aim is to grow a brand that will allow them to take on more farmers within the Taupo catchment and gain a premium that will support these farmers to thrive. As demand for Taupo Beef grows, additional farmers within the catchment that are compliant with the new environmental rules and are validated by Waikato Regional Council’s ‘environmental tick’ are added to the group and Taupo Beef & Lamb brand.
As described by Mike,
“The brand and ethos of the business have resonated with customers throughout the North Island. We created it out of the Lake Taupo Protection Project as an attempt to reward farmers in the catchment for their work in helping to protect the lake.”
A partnership key to the success of Taupo Beef and Lamb is with Neat Meat Ltd, a company dedicated to bringing the best quality produce from the farm to the table, with a focus on logistics and packaging that supports sustainable farming. Taupo Beef and Lamb farmers provide meat for Neat Meat’s Harmony brand. “Delivering meat in the most convenient, efficient and sustainable way is what the customer is demanding these days,” said Neat Meat Managing Director Simon Eriksen, “It’s the right thing to do, but it is also important that the farmer is rewarded for the part they play. They need to get the returns to ensure that they can sustain a style of farming that is good for the environment.”
The Harmony brand uses a distinctive green and gold sticker to show that the meat is sustainably farmed and also show the award-winning packaging that is made from corn starch that reduces the use of fossil fuel based resins that existing packaging uses and can be recycled in total. Simon feels it is the role of Neat Meat to help tell the story of sustainable farming and the importance of what growers are doing on farm, something which he feels is challenging for the industry when selling through large retailers.
“Taupo Beef and Lamb are such a great fit with our company ethos and we have found the partnership with Mike, Sharon and the other farmers incredibly satisfying.”
The Barton’s and their business have won many awards and accolades in recent years. Following their 2014 BFEA Regional Supreme Winner title for Waikato, they went on to win the Supreme Award – NZI Greatest Contribution to a Sustainable New Zealand in 2015 and in 2020, in conjunction with Neat Meat Ltd, won a gold and silver medal for their steak and sausage products in the Outstanding Food Producer Awards. Also in 2014, Mike’s efforts to preserve the environment, protect Lake Taupo and farm sustainably were recognised with the awarding of the Queen’s Service Medal for services to farming and the environment.
Mike and Sharon believe that entering the Ballance Farm Environment Awards was a “wonderful springboard that provided them with great contacts and connections.” They also valued the peer review of their operation and the thorough and constructive feedback they received from the judges.
What do the next 5-10 years hold for the Barton’s?
They have plans to continue to grow the Taupo Beef and Lamb business, which includes enhancing their presence in Japan, travel allowing. They also want to grow their relationships with consumers so they become part of the solution and continue to get a greater return for farmers who are undertaking good farming practices and looking after the water quality of Lake Taupo.
Enter the Ballance Farm Environment Awards