15 February 2019
“Thrilled” is perhaps the best word to describe the understandable elation the 2019 Horizons Regional Supreme Winners - Simon and Trudy Hales - felt at their regional awards function when their names were announced.
“We were among some passionate and innovative farmers, so to come away with the award was a real honour. To know we are on the right track with our environment strategy was a massive bonus for us.”
More than a century of farming lifeblood flows through the veins of Simon and Trudy Hales’ 970ha beef and sheep farm near Weber. The Hales family has been farming in the area for over 100 years.
Simon and Trudy are the fourth generation to farm this land, and the couple raises their two small children, Rocky and Alby, while helping their business to sustainably thrive so it can endure and continue to succeed in the hands of future generations.
The well-balanced property, with flats to steeper hills, has several enterprises and continues to evolve, already enjoying a remarkable journey to date. In 2010, the Hales created a business with Simon’s parents, to allow Simon to take on full-time management of both their blocks, Takapau and Kereru. In 2014, the neighbours' block named Claudelands - once farmed by the Hales family - came on the market. Simon and Trudy purchased this block and amalgamated it with the neighbouring Kereru block. In June 2018, the Hales then purchased the Kereru Block from Simon’s parents as well as their shares in the farming company.
Today they carry 3850 ewes with a lambing percentage of 134-145%. Last year, the Hales’ weaned 145% at an average weight of 30kg. Their cattle policy is relatively flexible and dependent on markets.
They aim to develop a sustainable business that provides an opportunity for generations to come, and the Hales aspire to build strong equity year-on-year to ensure profitability - an achievement the judges cited as a true accomplishment.
The Hales are equally concerned with improving their land with a vision to leave it in the best state possible. This vision has manifested in plans for a future programme of native planting to enhance the farm’s aesthetics and to mitigate the effect of soil loss through erosion. This is a commitment that illuminates the Hales’ significant soil knowledge.
Other commendable features on the Hales’ property include the retirement or exclusion of the the majority of the Akitio River from stock; Trudy’s propagation of native seedlings with seeds sourced locally or on farm, which will be planted within riparian areas; allowing areas to revert to scrub for biodiversity values; and the development of a health and safety plan.
Of their decision to enter the awards the Hales say, “So many farmers are committed to ‘doing the right thing’ and we would like to see greater recognition of this. Like anything, doing what’s right isn’t always what’s easy, particularly when it comes to making financial commitments, but we are willing to make those investments.”
The Hales’ experience throughout the judging was very positive, with the return on their investment in the process paying rewarding dividends. “The entire process of the awards is outstanding, from the thoughtful and considered judging and feedback, to the support with our field day, and positive messages and comments from sponsors, other entrants and those visiting our farm for the first time. It’s been an entirely rewarding process and one we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend people getting involved.”
The sky’s the limit for this dedicated couple who are excited about what opportunities lie ahead to build on their environmental progress. “We certainly haven’t finished our environmental journey on our farm. We have more planting, retiring of wetlands and fencing work to do, so the doors that have opened to us through the process are going to be really useful. We aim to be self-sustainable in our native plantings and Trudy’s nursery is already producing plants for the next few years.
“Like most farmers, we recognise this work needs energy, commitment, and financial ability and we will keep up this programme by ensuring year-on-year money is allocated in our budget, so we can continue.
“Farming responsibly is so much about balancing productivity from the land and stock with good stewardship and the environment - in every aspect - front of mind. Having two young boys and farming multi-generational land is a huge motivation for us to focus on ensuring we are farming in the best way possible, so that if one or both of our boys want to continue farming this land, they can.”
Bayleys People in Primary Sector Award
Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Farm Award
Norwood Agri-Business Management Award
Predator Free Farm Award
Fonterra Farm Stewardship Award
2019 Horizons Regional Supreme Winner