2 December 2014
Winning the National Winner title in the 2013 Ballance Farm Environment Awards opened up a whole world of opportunity for Canterbury farmers Craige and Roz Mackenzie.
The Mackenzies handed over the Gordon Stephenson trophy to fellow Cantabrians Mark and Devon Slee in June 2014, but they are still as busy as ever.
Over the last 18-months they have hosted a string of national and international visitors on their intensive arable farm near Methven. As ambassadors for sustainable agriculture they have also travelled widely, spreading the sustainability message throughout New Zealand and overseas.
Earlier this year they toured Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, where they studied arable farming, dairying and beef production. A key aim of the trip, facilitated by the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust, was to exchange views on topics of crucial interest to New Zealand farmers and to showcase New Zealand’s stance on agricultural sustainability.
In October, Craige was part of an elite group of 16 farmers attending the Global Farmer Roundtable in Iowa. Held as part of the World Food Prize meetings, the roundtable addresses the challenge of providing enough food for 9 billion people by 2050.
Craige, the only Kiwi invited, says the experience was humbling.
“It certainly made me realise how lucky we are to have what we have in New Zealand. In terms of agriculture, we have some huge advantages climatically and technologically. But the whole aim of the forum was to brainstorm how we can work together globally to increase agricultural productivity and be more efficient in what we do.”
Back home on the farm, Craige and Roz have hosted several field days showcasing the use of technology to lift farm performance and improve sustainability.
“We invited the Green Party to come and see what we are doing. We also reached out to the wider community because we feel it is our duty to engage urban people and help them understand what farmers are trying to do.”
Three government ministers have also visited the farm.
“It’s been a fantastic opportunity to talk face-to-face with politicians about some of the challenges in front of farmers,” says Craige.
He and Roz look back on their involvement with the Ballance Farm Environment Awards with pride and affection.
“We really enjoyed rubbing shoulders with the other regional winners. Being involved in the competition gave us a real shot in the arm and provided added drive to keep us innovating and improving our farming systems.
“We’ve also enjoyed building relationships with the sponsors associated with the competition. The awards have a huge amount of credibility and being involved with them has given us some great opportunities. We are very grateful to the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust for all their support.”