Ken and Janine Hames
Northland farmers Ken and Janine Hames had their first bash at the Ballance Farm Environment Awards last year and were delighted to win two category awards.
"I guess it shows that we are on the right track," says Ken, who runs an intensive bull finishing operation on 400ha at Paparoa, southeast of Dargaville.
Ken and Janine, a vet at Ruawai, won the Ballance Nutrient Management Award and were joint winners of the PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award.
Ken says they entered the awards to benchmark themselves against other farmers and "to see where we were at" in terms of environmental sustainability.
The ‘sustainability' word has been weighing heavily on his mind in recent years, particularly after an Agmardt Fame scholarship took him and Janine to some of the major markets where NZ produce is sold.
"As we travelled through Asia, Europe and United States it became very obvious that the wealthier consumers wanted to know more and more about where their products came from and how they are produced.
"Farmers need to be aware that environmental issues associated with farming are here to stay. We have to position ourselves for the future and make sure everything we do is sustainable in the long-term."
Ken says his experience in the Ballance Farm Environment Awards has inspired him to keep improving, and he has set a number of achievable goals over the next five years.
"We've had fairly low profitability in the sheep and beef sector, so you can't expect to do everything in year one. We've got to be realistic."
The BFEA judging process spurred him to continue with a waterway and bush fencing programme. A 4ha block of native bush has been under QE II National Trust covenant for ten years and Ken has finished fencing a second block on his own account.
He has also applied to the Northland Regional Council for help with further fencing.
He says the cost of planting stream banks with native trees has been an issue in the past "because I'm really tight and I'm always looking for cost-effective ways to achieve results. But one of the BFEA judges pointed out to me that I could use flax instead and so that's what I'm going to do."
Ken says the judges offered some very useful advice and he found the judging experience to be rewarding and educational.
He says he and Janine will certainly enter the competition again in future and he would encourage other farmers to give it a go.
"Some people worry that their farm isn't ready, but you are never going to have the perfect farm. It's always going to be a work in progress."
Entries for the 2011 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards open on September 1, 2010. Information on the awards and an entry form can be obtained from www.bfea.org.nz .
For more information on the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, contact David Natzke, General Manager, New Zealand Farm Environment Award Trust, phone (07) 834 0400, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.