12 September 2014
Photo: Left to right are Dorothy, Henry and Jason Christensen
Wairarapa dairy farmer Jason Christensen is a passionate advocate for sustainable farming.
The efforts he and parents Henry and Dorothy have made to improve the sustainability of their 527ha dairy and beef farm, north of Masterton, were recognised this year when the family picked up three category awards in the 2014 Greater Wellington Ballance Farm Environment Awards.
Jason, who returned to the family farm after 14 years with the Department of Conservation, says he and his parents were pleased they entered the competition.
“The judging process provided us with an opportunity to get a clear set of outside eyes over the farm, to find out what we could do differently or better.”
Ballance Farm Environment Award (BFEA) judges described Jason’s enthusiasm and passion for the farm as “inspirational”.
Jason says improving sustainability is a big driver for him. His parents had already started the job by retiring and planting the major waterways on Fernhill Farms, which milks 390 cows and winters 60 beef cattle.
He has continued to make improvements where he can, often using technology to help reduce farm running costs.
BFEA judges were very impressed with his attempts to increase energy efficiency, awarding the farm an Energy Efficiency Award. The farm’s new rotary dairy, built two years ago, utilises an innovative glycol snap chiller that harnesses heat energy created during the chilling process to heat hot water for cleaning.
“Heating hot water consumes a huge amount of energy but this system gives us enough hot water for two hot washes and a vat wash each day, so it saves a lot of money,” Jason says.
The system also makes good use of night-rate electricity to further reduce costs. So does the farm’s water system. Installed four years ago, this extensive system pumps water at night, up to storage tanks near the top of the farm. Water is then gravity fed to the farm during the day.
“This saves a colossal amount of money.”
In another energy-efficiency initiative, the farm’s three quad bikes have been replaced with two-wheelers and a small utility vehicle. This has significantly reduced fuel and maintenance costs.
Fernhill Farms also won the Donaghys Farm Stewardship Award and the LIC Dairy Farm Award in the 2014 Greater Wellington BFEA.
Jason says the awards process encourages farmers to review their farming systems.
“You’ve got to look outside the square because what you’ve done in the past might not necessarily be the best way of doing things.”
Jason and his parents plan to re-enter the competition again in future. He says mixing with like-minded people at the awards ceremony was a highlight.
“It was a good night, with a great atmosphere. I’d definitely encourage other farmers to enter the awards, even if they feel their farm is not ready. It’s very worthwhile.”
Entries for the 2015 Ballance Farm Environment Awards are now open. Entering the competition is easy and entry forms are available online at www.bfea.org.nz
Entries for the Greater Wellington BFEA close on October 24, 2014.