Geoff and Jodelle Clark had only been dairy farming for two years when it was suggested they enter the Ballance Farm Environment Awards.
While Geoff admits to making a ‘slip of the tongue’ comment about wanting to enter the competition one day, he and Jodelle didn’t feel their recently converted Hokonui sheep and beef farm was ready.
“We’d baked the cake, but we hadn’t put the icing on.”
After some subtle persuasion the Clarks decided to enter the 2011 Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards. They were glad they did because they got more out of the competition than they ever expected.
“It was a great experience,” says Geoff.
“Like most farmers, we are proud of our farm, but the awards gave us the opportunity to show other people what we have done and what our plans are for the future.”
The conversion of Geoff’s family farm ‘Glendale’ began in 2009 and today the property milks over 700 cows on 310ha effective.
“Before we started the conversion we set out to be as sympathetic to the environment as we could. We wanted everything done right.”
This proactive approach to environmental management included planting trees and fencing about 8km of waterways. Soil moisture meters were also installed in areas where farm effluent was to be applied.
“We’ve got a river on the boundary and my three boys and I go fishing there. We eat the fish we catch and we certainly didn’t want that to change.”
Entering the Ballance Farm Environment Awards was a completely new experience for Geoff and Jodelle, but they put a lot of effort into preparing their entry and recording all their plans for the farm.
“You often hear the airy-fairy comment that being involved with this competition makes you take a good hard look at your business, but that is exactly what happened with us,” says Geoff.
While he felt nervous prior to the arrival of the judges, the nerves quickly disappeared.
“The judging was an awesome process. The judges had some great ideas about what we could do in future. I was on a real high after they left because they were so encouraging. It made us realise that we had done some good stuff when it comes to addressing environmental issues and it also made us think about how we can improve further.”
The awards evening was another highlight. “We were blown away by how cool it was. All the entrants were treated like royalty, and it was great meeting other farmers and business leaders.”
At the ceremony the Clarks were named winners of the LIC Dairy Farm Award.
Geoff says they were surprised and thrilled to win the award and to be named finalists.
“Even if we hadn’t won anything, we would still be happy because we got so much out of being part of the competition.”
He and Jodelle would definitely like to participate again in future and they are encouraging other farmers to enter the 2012 awards.
“There are many benefits in being involved in a competition like this,” says Geoff.
“And it’s good to see dairy farmers entering these awards. It’s important for the dairy industry to be able to show off some of the good things dairy farmers are doing.”
Entries for the 2012 Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards open on October 3, 2011. For more information or an entry form contact Southland BFEA representative, Helen van der Linden, ph 03 204 2015, 0272 767 616 or email Southland@bfea.org.nz.
For more information on the New Zealand Farm Environment Award Trust or the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, contact David Natzke, General Manager, New Zealand Farm Environment Award Trust, phone 07 834 0400, or email email@example.com.