18 August 2014
Photo left to right, Sarah, Callum, Margaret and Leicester Gray
Central Hawke’s Bay farmer Callum Gray says participating in the East Coast Ballance Farm Environment Awards was a “brilliant” experience for his family. Now he is encouraging other farmers to enter the 2015 Awards.
Callum’s family runs a sheep, beef and cropping business in the Waipawa District. Their 1009ha ‘Waimarino’ carries about 15,000 sheep and beef stock units and grows a range of crops, including maize (for dairy support), peas, green beans, sweetcorn and beetroot.
Trading as Gray Brothers Ltd, Callum and wife Sarah farm in partnership with Callum’s parents Leicester and Margaret and his brother Phillip and wife Juliet. Phillip, an engineer, returned to the farm this year.
“It’s been great having him back because I’m good at breaking things and he’s good at fixing them.”
Gray Brothers Ltd entered the 2014 East Coast Ballance Farm Environment Awards and won the WaterForce Integrated Management Award. This category recognises farmers who have developed and implemented integrated water management systems and processes for water used within their farming system.
Ballance Farm Environment Award (BFEA) judges were impressed with Gray Brothers’ well-managed irrigation system which has enhanced the farm’s productive capability while providing “future-proofing against drought”.
The Grays started installing the new system in 2006.
“Dad had the foresight to sink the first bore,” Callum says.
“Drought is very common in this region and the whole aim of the project was to give the farm a bit more security.”
About 320ha is now under pivot irrigation, with another 32ha watered by a hard hose irrigator. Water is drawn from two deep wells “to secure quality and guarantee quantity”. Judges also noted the Gray’s excellent knowledge of their systems and their “measured and monitored approach” to water usage and conservation.
The Grays are now in the process of planting thousands of shrubs and trees on the farm.
“We have to use plants that are low-growing or easy to prune so that the irrigators can pass over the top of them,” Callum says.
He says BFEA judges were able to offer some very useful advice on which plants were suitable.
“We were very impressed with the judges. They had some challenging questions, but they weren’t there to trip us up. The feedback they gave us was excellent.”
Callum says his family entered the competition after talking to previous entrants.
“The Ballance Farm Environment Awards have a lot of credibility and they help to promote the positive side of farming. We felt it would be a good challenge for us to put ourselves forward and to get an outside perspective on what we are doing.”
Callum says other farmers should consider entering the Ballance Farm Environment Awards.
“It doesn’t cost you anything, so you’ve got nothing to lose. It’s good to challenge yourself and you might even learn something.”
Entries for the 2015 East Coast Ballance Farm Environment Awards close on September 19, 2014.
Entering the competition is easy and entry forms are available online at www.bfea.org.nz
For more information on the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, contact David Natzke, General Manager, New Zealand Farm Environment Trust, phone 07 834 0400, firstname.lastname@example.org.
or visit web www.bfea.org.nz