15 April 2020
Here are our wonderful 2020 entrants for the Greater Wellington Ballance Farm Environment Awards. We congratulate them all for becoming involved in the awards programme - it's a privilege to have learned more about their food and fibre production businesses.
William Beetham, Beetham Pastural — Wainuioru & Kapiti Coast
Sheep & beef
Pastural performance through partnerships is the vision of this family sheep and beef farming business that has a legacy spanning 163 years.
Beetham Pastural has three family shareholders and operates three farms – each with its own environment plan and independently accounted for financially and in terms of production.
The property features native bush preserved under QEII National Trust covenants and has implemented numerous measures to reduce environmental impact, enhance biodiversity and preserve the landscape. These include extensive erosion-control and waterway plantings, areas for carbon sequestration, wetland restoration and projects to mitigate sediment and nutrient loss. The team is focused on finding new ways to protect soils while increasing production and stocking policies are centred around sustainability.
Family, people and community are at the heart of the business that aims to create a sustainable future for generations to come.
Andrew & Karen Bunny, Black Rock Hills — Te Ore Ore
Sheep & beef
These fifth-generation famers have lifted both pasture and stock performance over the past 16 years and recently transitioned to a modern farming approach.
Their farming practices have significantly reduced the use of fertiliser, chemical herbicides, fungicides and insecticides. The approach aims to significantly improve soil biology and the health of stock and pasture.
Diverse multi-species forages are used to improve nutrient availability. Large mobs of stock are rotationally grazed, ultimately increasing the amount of carbon being absorbed into the soil.
The property features 5.1ha of QEII National Trust covenants and over the past two years 1,200 poles have been planted to help improve soil stability and reduce erosion. The property has a solar water reticulation system, and pests and predators are actively controlled.
Caring for stock and soil is critical as this family strives to continually have the healthiest, highest-quality produce leaving their farm gate.
Rob Dick, Easterbo — East Taratahi
Owner-operator Rob Dick has been farming Easterbo since 2008 and is committed to working with the right people to implement sustainable farming methods.
He grazes 2,100 hoggets, 1,400 hogget lambs and 600 ewes on a range of grain, summer rape, red clover and plantain, using a no-tillage cross slot-drill for cropping and regrassing.
To reduce environmental impact, Rob has put in about 8,000 riparian plants, fenced off waterways, installed culverts and pulled out willow trees. Herbs are grown to help reduce nitrogen levels and the use of fertiliser is carefully managed. All paddocks have troughs and a waste management system is in place.
Rob understands his weaknesses as he strives to farm sustainably, seeking support and retraining on different aspects of farming as he goes.
Jeff & Shirley Ravenwood, Fernglen & Motu-Nui — Homewood
Sheep & beef, sheep milking
The development and marketing of sheep milk products is a growing focus on these family-owned sheep and beef farms that have been operated by the Ravenwoods since 1995.
Operating under one company umbrella, Fernglen and Motu-Nui runs 3,800 sheep, 200 beef and 300 goats. In 2018, a milking shed was built plus processing equipment was established at the local Kingsmeade Artisan Cheese factory.
The farm features 390ha of mainly fenced native bush and numerous QEII National Trust covenants. Wetlands on Motu-Nui are fenced off, up to 200 poplar and willow poles are planted annually and most paddocks have shelter belts. Other conservation measures include utilising mānuka sites on the farm for honey production, using maintenance fertiliser only and recording the spread of effluent.
The whole family is involved with nurturing and improving the properties, along with driving the Fernglen Farm sheep milk venture and products.
Aidan Bichan, Neville Fisher and Vern Brasell, Kaiwaiwai Dairies — Featherston
Demonstrating good environmental stewardship is a key focus for the team at Kaiwaiwai Dairies – a dairy farm operated as an equity partnership with six shareholders.
With 900 dairy cows and 20 beef cattle, the business is almost completely self-contained – a policy that provides biosecurity assurance and reduces risk around feed supplies.
A wetland development project included planting natives along its banks and regenerating a kahikatea stand, plus the farm is testing fish passages and flow controls. The farm actively plants native trees, has a pest management plan and has significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions. The team is also successfully striving to improve energy efficiency, reduce stock drug use and improve the quality of water leaving the farm.
Kaiwaiwai Dairies is proud to be part of the dairy industry and has a recognised leadership role in environmental stewardship, climate change discussions, employment practices and promotion of the positive aspects of food production.
Ben & Karen Herrick, Kowhai Bush Organics — Waihakeke
Over the past three years, the Herricks have transformed their 85ha once-a-day dairy operation into a low-cost business that is Fully Certified Organic.
The owner-operators run 235 milking cows and 82 replacement stock, with farm working expenses being under $2.00/kg last season – providing a high profit per hectare. No chemical fertilisers are used and stock only receive homeopathic remedies.
The property features 1ha of fenced native bush and its wetland was recently planted, fenced and retired. There is plenty of shade and shelter on the property, including numerous kowhai and plum trees, and rats are managed with traps and bait. Dung beetles were introduced last season to help get cow manure down to the roots of large trees being used for erosion control.
The Herricks are striving to implement a simple farming system so the operation is as stress free as possible for the stock, workers and for themselves.
Joel Watson, Luna Estate — Dyerville
Joel Watson has managed Luna Estate since 2015 and has made continuous improvements in vineyard and wine quality during that time, including a shift to organic farming.
The 40ha Luna Estate is comprised of two vineyard sites that are used to grow grapes, plus make and sell wine.
The vines are regularly monitored and replanted as needed, complemented by large tracts of native trees on both properties. There is efficient use of fertiliser, with a preference for inter-row cropping, and any fertiliser used is regularly monitored. Irrigation is minimal – only used on new plants – and all waste management practices in the winery and vineyard comply with WSMP requirements.
Managing Luna Estate is regarded as a huge opportunity by Joel who is focused on continuing to improve the vineyard, the wine quality and the team he has developed over the past two years.
Andy & Katy Duncan, Totarabank — Te Whiti
Sustainability and energy efficiency are the core themes of Totarabank – a lifestyle development with eight freehold lots and common land managed by the Totarabank Residents’ Association.
Totarabank includes an olive grove, two orchards, and 1km of walking and activity tracks with river access. It also features a coppicing firewood lot that meets thermal energy needs, communal recreational areas and a wastewater disposal system that irrigates native bush.
A stormwater retention pond and associated wetland helps to improve water quality, while natives are continually planted – often replacing exotic shelter belts. Totarabank generates its own electricity, has a solar water heating system and buildings are thermally efficient. All this is complemented by a sophisticated water reticulation system and pest control programme.
Totarabank is an exemplar in environmentally friendly and sustainable lifestyle living, with the owners focused on overall sustainability and resilience in a changing world.
Barrie Cook, Whakatomotomo — Pirinoa
What began as a lifestyle choice has largely become a mission to preserve this property’s native forest – the last remnant of its kind in the Whakatomotomo Valley.
The property includes five acres of swamp forest protected by a QEII National Trust covenant and features numerous old kahikatea as well as pukatea and swamp maire.
Preserving and improving water supply to the forest is a focus after a significant number of trees died in 2016, including about half of the kahikatea – several of which were more than 400 years old. Barrie views the forest as a community asset and has hosted visits by groups including school parties, botanical societies and garden clubs.
He is grateful for the practical support he has had from his neighbour Palliser Ridge Station – the Greater Wellington regional supreme winner at the 2019 Ballance Farm Environment Awards.