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Otago Farmers Claim Top Farm Environment Trophy

24 June 2012

Otago Farmers Claim Top Farm Environment Trophy

Otago farmers Blair and Jane Smith are the new holders of the prestigious Gordon Stephenson Trophy after being named national winners of the 2012 Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Their win was announced in front of 300 guests at the New Zealand Farm Environment (NZFE) Trust’s Sustainability Showcase at Parliament Buildings in Wellington on June 23.

The Smiths were chosen from nine regional Supreme winners of the 2012 Ballance Farm Environment Awards. They run Newhaven Farms Ltd – a North Otago sheep, beef, forestry and dairy support operation that spans three family-owned properties totalling 1528ha.

The Gordon Stephenson Trophy is presented annually at the Sustainability Showcase – an event that salutes people who are farming in a manner that is environmentally, economically and socially sustainable.

NZFE Trust chairman Jim Cotman said Blair and Jane Smith will be great ambassadors for New Zealand agriculture.

“They are successful business people and strong communicators who will be able to effectively convey their sustainable farming beliefs and actions to a wide audience within New Zealand and beyond.”

Mr Cotman said the Smiths were chosen from an outstanding group of regional winners who had clearly proved “they have what it takes to be profitable and sustainable guardians of our natural resources”.

Guests at the showcase were treated to inspiring visual presentations that highlighted what each of the nine regional winners had achieved down on the farm.

The event celebrates the huge contribution farmers make to the New Zealand economy and highlights the efforts farmers are making to find better ways to manage the complex farming systems they work with.

Mr Cotman says the showcase provides an example of “our unique NZ brand”, reinforcing the importance of producing quality food, “based on good practice ethics and the ongoing stewardship of the land”.

He said the national winner is chosen following a rigorous judging process, and he thanked NZFE Trust deputy chairman Simon Saunders and his outstanding team which comprised Jamie Strang, Warwick Catto, Jacqueline Rowarth, Alistair Polson and Paul Lamont.

“The Ballance Farm Environment Awards, which underpin the Gordon Stephenson Trophy, continue to build momentum and showcase outstanding examples of farmers who care for the environment.”

Mr Cotman said NZFE is grateful for the ongoing support of naming-right sponsor, Ballance Agri-Nutrients, and the host of sponsors and partners who help make the Awards the success they are.

“These agribusinesses understand and support the sustainability journey New Zealand farmers are on, and recognise the positive impact this has for the New Zealand economy and New Zealand’s overall wellbeing.”

Named after the Waotu farmer who started the Farm Environment Awards, the Gordon Stephenson Trophy confers the winning farmers with a sense of pride, achievement and inspiration.

The trophy was presented to the Smiths by the Minister for Primary Industries, the Honourable David Carter.

Jim Cotman also praised last year’s holders, Grant and Bernie Weller. He said the Southland farmers did an exceptional job of taking the sustainability message around New Zealand and overseas.

The Wellers recently returned from an industry-backed trip to Europe where they visited a number of key markets for New Zealand sheep, beef and dairy products to showcase New Zealand’s stance on agricultural sustainability.