1 July 2014
Mark and Devon Slee, National Winners of the 2014 Ballance Farm Environment Awards, will make outstanding ambassadors for New Zealand agriculture, says Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills.
Mr Wills, a first-time judge on New Zealand Farm Environment Trust’s National Winner judging panel, says while all ten Supreme winners vying for the award were great farming leaders, the Slees showed they had the exceptional communication skills required to champion NZ farming to a national and international audience.
He says their Canterbury business, Melrose Dairy, is an outstanding example of a high performing, sustainable dairy operation.
The Slees are achieving excellent production and outstanding profitability while remaining steadfastly committed to minimising their operation’s impacts on the environment, he says.
“Mark and Devon run a large-scale intensive dairy farming business on some of the lighter soils in Canterbury and this type of operation has been at the forefront of the debate on the effects of dairying on the environment. But the Slees have shown great initiative and dedication when it comes to reducing their environmental footprint, and they are excellent role models for other farmers to follow.”
Mr Wills says the Slees were early converters to dairying in the region and among the first dairy farmers to adopt pivot irrigation to improve water utilisation.
Simon Saunders, acting chair of the New Zealand Farm Environment (NZFE) Trust and chair of the National Winner judging panel, said the Slees performed superbly during their interview with the judges.
“They proved they have a very good understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing New Zealand agriculture.”
He said the Slees also demonstrated excellent communication skills and team work.
“They are a highly motivated and skilled couple, yet very down to earth and humble. They absolutely deserved to win this competition and they will make excellent ambassadors for the dairy industry and for New Zealand agriculture in general.”
Mr Saunders said the judging panel, which also included Jamie Strang, Warwick Catto, Paul Lamont and Charmaine O’Shea, was “blown away” by the calibre of all the regional winners.
“They are all great leaders and they should be very proud of what they have achieved. Listening to these people talk about their farming operations with such passion and enthusiasm gives me great confidence for the future of New Zealand agriculture.”
Mr Wills, who is soon to step down as president of Federated Farmers of New Zealand, says judging the competition was an inspiring experience.
“I found it a huge privilege to be able to sit down with ten of New Zealand’s best farmers and hear them talk about their focus and commitment towards running a sustainable business. It’s clear that farmers have got the message about environmental sustainability. Change is underway and a new age is coming.”