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Farm Environment Competition Confirms Berry Growers on Right Path

5 August 2013

Farm Environment Competition Confirms Berry Growers on Right Path

Entering the Ballance Farm Environment Awards provided Bay of Plenty orchardists Ben and Heidi Rosewarne with the perfect opportunity to review the direction of their business.

And they were pleased they did.

In the 2013 Bay of Plenty Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) - their first attempt at the competition – they picked up two category awards, as well as lots of free advice.

“It never hurts to take a good hard look at your business,” says Ben.

“For us, being involved in the competition helped us to confirm we were on the right track with what we were doing.”

The Rosewarnes run Blueberry Corner, a berry growing and retail business based just north of Whakatane. After recently expanding their operation they now grow about 6ha of blueberries, 1ha of strawberries and .5ha of raspberries.

A few years ago they made some significant changes to the growing side of their business, changing plant varieties and switching to biological practices.

As a result of these changes they now use less pesticide on the property, fruit quality has improved and yields have increased.

“It’s hard to say by how much our tonnages have risen”, says Ben, “because Mother Nature always holds the last cards on that one. But what has impressed me the most is the big increase in worm activity around the plants, and that is a very positive sign.”

Soil and leaf testing is an important component of the Rosewarne’s growing system. Regular testing helps to determine exactly what nutrients are needed. Organic fertilisers are then applied to the leaves rather than the soil.

BFEA judges awarded Blueberry Corner the Hill Laboratories Harvest Award. This award recognises farmers who are mainly involved in growing crops (for example, grain, seed, viticulture and horticulture) but also encompasses livestock farmers who demonstrate excellent pasture and soil management. This category considers the effect the farming system has on the land resource in the present and in the long term. Nutrient use and any impact the system may have on the water resource is also taken into account, and judges look for evidence that formal monitoring or measuring of the effects of the growing system is being performed. A good understanding of weed and pest management is also required.

Ben and Heidi were pleased to win this award because it provides a good endorsement of their growing system. They also picked up the PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award – a reflection of their people management ethos and community involvement.

Ben says entering the competition was relatively easy and it proved to be a rewarding process.

“Doing the paperwork was a really good exercise for us because it made us sit down and take a look at what we were doing and where we were going.”

He admits to being a little nervous as he and Heidi awaited the arrival of the judges. But they were quickly put at ease.

“The judging process was pretty relaxed and the judges made some very good points. I think we got a lot out of it and we’d certainly be keen to have another crack in future.”

Ben says he and Heidi would recommend the competition to other famers or growers.

“It’s definitely worth going along for the ride.”

Entries for the 2014 Ballance Farm Environment Awards opened on August 1, 2013. Entry forms are available at www.bfea.org.nz

More information on the 2014 Ballance Farm Environment Awards, including regional closing dates, is available on the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust website.

For more information on the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, contact David Natzke, General Manager, New Zealand Farm Environment Trust, phone 07 834 0400, emaildavid.natzke@nzfeatrust.org.nz.