Wanganui farmer Trevor Laird covers a fair bit of territory as a judge for the Horizons Ballance Farm Environment Awards. But it’s a job he looks forward to each year. Trevor and his father Gordon run a sheep, beef, deer and cropping operation on over 540ha (including lease land) at Fordell, near Wanganui. It’s a family affair that involves son Steven, wife Julie and another son Fraser - a student at Lincoln – who works on the farm during the University holidays.
Trevor got involved with the Ballance Farm Environment Awards back in 2005 as an entrant, although he confesses to some initial hesitation.
“Someone twisted my arm twisted, but I’m really glad I did go in for it in the end because I learnt a lot.”
The Laird’s property ‘Mavisbank” won two category awards – the Ballance Nutrient Management Award and the ANZ Grow Award. Trevor was invited to join the judging panel the following year.
He says he enjoys the opportunity to inspect a diverse range of farm types. “It’s very stimulating to see what other people are doing and listen to them talk about achieving their goals.”
As a judge, Trevor gets to see some very good farmers in action. He says the Awaards highlights how good environmental practices and profitable business management go hand in hand.“Every year we see new ideas that can be shared with other farmers, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Trevor has used some of these ideas on his own farm. For example, he and Steven recently fitted their tractor with a Global Positioning System after seeing how 2007 Supreme winners Hew and Roger Dalrymple were utilising precision farming techniques on their Bulls farm.
While many entrants aspire to reach the same level of overall sustainability as the Supreme winners, sometimes this can take a lifetime to achieve. Instead, says Trevor, some entrants choose to first concentrate on improving the sustainability of one specific area of their operation.
“The key thing the judges are looking for is evidence the entrants have long-term goals and a plan in place to help them achieve those goals. I suppose its our job to get inside their heads to find out their vision and direction.” But the judging process is a two-way street and entrants get to pick the brains of the judges and find out where they stand in terms of environmental sustainability and what they can do to improve in future.
Trevor says its an experience that would benefit almost every farmer and he urges people to enter or nominate someone they feel would make a worthy candidate.
Entries for the 2009 Horizons Ballance Farm Environment Awards open on October 1, 2008.