17 August 2015
Halcombe dairy farmers George and Ellen Bartlett entered the 2015 Horizons Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) because they wanted to support their industry and learn more about sustainability.
Winning three category awards in their first time in the competition was a bonus for the Bartletts, who run a 950-cow operation on 526ha north of Feilding.
“We certainly didn’t expect to win anything,” says Ellen, “we entered because we wanted to find out what we were doing right and what things we could improve on in future. We also felt it was important to support the awards because they do such a great job of showcasing the good work being done by farmers.”
While business and environmental sustainability has always been a key focus for George and Ellen, their involvement in the awards inspired them to keep looking for ways to improve further.
“The judging process spurred us into action by making us realise that there are still some areas where we can do better,” says Ellen.
“It was great to have the judges come on to the farm and offer us an outside perspective. They asked some challenging questions but these questions were challenging in a positive way and George enjoyed answering them and explaining what we were trying to achieve.”
The Bartletts won the LIC Dairy Farm Award, the PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award and the WaterForce Integrated Management Award.
The WaterForce Integrated Management Award recognises farmers who have developed and implemented integrated water management systems and processes for water used within their farming system.
BFEA judges said the Bartletts manage and maintain their water resources to a very high standard while continually investigating further water storage options.
“The farm is on a water scheme, so our water allocation is tightly restricted,” says Ellen.
“We don’t irrigate and we make every effort to recycle and re-use whatever water we can.”
For example, ‘green water’ collected in a third-stage effluent pond is used for yard washdown. Rainwater is collected where possible, and all waterlines are constantly monitored for leaks.
“We have to be very careful with our water, so we treat it as one of our most valuable assets.”
The Bartletts also won praise for their staff management.
“Staff are very important to us and when we entered the awards we got the whole team involved and explained what we were aiming to do. They were all very supportive and the fact we won three awards reflects well upon them.”
Ellen and George would definitely encourage other farmers to give the Ballance Farm Environment Awards a go.
“It’s not all about winning, it’s about learning. Just enjoy the process and what you can gain from it,” says Ellen.
George says farmers shouldn’t wait until they have finished their farm improvements “because there is always more to do and the feedback gained could help you prioritise this”.
Entries for the 2016 Horizons Ballance Farm Environment Awards close on 25 September 2015. Entry forms are available online at www.bfea.org.nz