14 April 2020
2020 finalists: Chris & Desiree Giles of Waimumu Downs - Dairy.
A strong vision has guided the conversion of this Gore farm since Chris and Desiree set up the Waimumu Downs equity partnership in 2014. They formed the partnership to get into farm ownership and have since brought in seven shareholding entities and successfully converted the property to dairy.
Waimumu Downs was entered into the Ballance Farm Environment Awards because the Giles were keen to get early guidance on their farming journey – a reflection of their strong interest in learning.
The property has almost doubled in size since the original farm purchase five years ago and it now runs about 550 dairy cows and 250 replacement stock. The judges praised the couple’s well-thought-out conversion that includes the building of a calf shed that makes great use of light and solar power. During the conversion, the farm retained numerous shelter belts for protection – even though they no longer match fence lines.
While Waimumu Downs is a highly successful business, the Giles are equally interested in the community involvement that comes with farming. They are highly active in the local community and regularly host groups. They are working with the local rūnanga to develop a native seed bank for nutrient-rich plants that will attract native birds and bees. Seeds will be planted on-farm or given away.
The judges were impressed with the four wetlands being created on the property and the couple is also enhancing biodiversity by moving away from monoculture forage and pasture crops. There’s a strong focus on the preventative care of stock, with cows well-fed and monitored closely. The Giles are minimising fertiliser use and have implemented systems for both waste and water recycling.
The judges praised their education work with the community, plus their own on-going interest in training that currently includes learning about regenerative farming and carbon sinks.