13 May 2020
Here are our wonderful 2020 entrants for the Southland 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.
Robert & Cate Willis, Bobcat Dairy — Riverton
Fourth-generation Southland farmer Robert Willis was brought up on his family’s sheep farm, however it was cows that really caught his interest and led to the conversion of this dairy property.
The high-performing dairy unit was converted from sheep almost 20 years ago. As the farm has been developed, cow numbers have grown, production has lifted, and ambitious goals around efficiency and profitability have been reached.
Enhancing the environment was a priority during the conversion, including significant native plantings. There’s a focus on reducing the farm’s long-term environmental footprint plus innovative farm practices are used to improve animal health.
Having a manager enables the Willis’s to live off-site and follow other ambitions, with Robert currently working as an ambulance officer.
Andrew & Vanessa Wilkinson, Calsi Farms — Wyndham
Over the past 10 years, Andrew and Vanessa have gone from strength-to-strength on this Southland dairy farm, successfully balancing environmental achievements with profitability.
Farm operations are run using an inclusive approach that embraces new ideas and technology. There’s a strong focus on consistently trying to improve soils, pastures and animal health.
The environment is being enhanced through such things as the implementation of a wetland planting plan, putting in bird- and bee-friendly shelterbelts, and controlling gorse and broom without using herbicides. A heat-recovery system has been installed and investment has been made in genetics, recycling and fuel efficiency.
As shareholders and contract milkers, the Wilkinsons are actively involved in any decisions and enjoy bringing creative ideas to the table.
Ben Dooley, Dooley Partnership — Wyndham
Sheep & beef
Protecting the environment for future generations is a strong driver for Ben Dooley who has farmed this property in partnership with his father and uncle for 11 years.
The property runs Romney ewes and hand-reared dairy and beef calves, with Ben proud of the speed of change that has taken place on the farm. A close eye is kept on animal health and nutrient usage, while they have an innovative approach to winter cropping that goes against current trends.
Ben is striving to build on the good environmental work done by previous generations. He plans to increase native plantings and to fence a second wetland, plus is taking conscious steps to reduce plastic waste.
Pip Wilson, Glen Lee — Wendon Valley
Pip Wilson has overseen a huge transformation on her property since taking over in 2013, with ongoing improvements to both the stock and property.
One of the biggest changes is the significant recovery of grazing land through the eradication and control of gorse and broom. Enhancing biodiversity is also a priority, including native plantings around one pond and willows around another.
Other highlights include spring-fed troughs being put into all paddocks, along with new tree lanes, plantations and fencing. Animal and soil health, along with nutrient management, are all closely monitored.
As a self-employed sheep farmer, Pip is living a childhood dream and takes her responsibility as caretaker seriously – including passing her skills onto the next generation.
Geordie & Frances Eade, Granity Downs — Riverton
Intensive sheep & beef
Big-picture thinking that balances business risk with sustainability is guiding the development of this Riverton farm.
A reliable, high-producing unit with good infrastructure, Granity Downs also has a natural beauty that’s being carefully nurtured – including the protection of large blocks of native vegetation. About 2ha of forestry was harvested in 2017 and half of that has since been replanted.
There’s a strong focus on stock and plant health, with between eight and 10 soil tests carried out every year to guide the careful application of fertiliser. Meanwhile, excellent systems, stockmanship and management enables family life to remain a priority.
The couple’s open-minded approach and ongoing efforts have resulted in a well-cared for farm that is achieving sustainable productivity as development continues.
Reza & Silvia Abdul-Jabbar, Rural Practice Trust — Invercargill
The owners of this farm are highly conscious of being close to the unique Waituna Lagoon, driving a proactive approach to looking after the environment.
Waituna Lagoon is one of New Zealand’s best examples of a natural coastal lagoon and carries high cultural significance, meaning Reza and Silvia and are working hard to balance productivity with environmental stewardship.
Comprehensive business planning and close monitoring helps to ensure business targets are met while balancing environmental goals. Enhancing biodiversity is a strong focus, including the couple’s involvement in a joint restoration project on this property that features large blocks of protected native bush.
Owning a farm is a dream come true for this family who are also heavily involved in the local community.
Chris & Desiree Giles, Waimumu Downs — Waimumu
A strong vision has guided the conversion of this property since Chris and Desiree set up the Waimumu Downs equity partnership in 2014.
Since the original farm purchase, the property has almost doubled in size and there has been significant investment in infrastructure. Along with carefully managing animal health, fertiliser use is minimised and the couple has implemented systems for both waste and water recycling.
A commitment to biodiversity includes the creation of four wetlands and a shift from monoculture forage and pasture crops.
The Giles are equally interested in the community involvement that comes with farming and are highly active in the local community. This includes working with the local rūnanga to develop a native seed bank.