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Pukekawa Cropping Operation Collects Top Prize In Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards

21 March 2012

Pukekawa Cropping Operation Collects Top Prize In Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards

A Pukekawa couple’s progressive cropping venture has won the Supreme title in the 2012 Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Chris and Vikki Nicholson, who together with Chris’s parents John and Claire Nicholson run Hinemoa Quality Producers Ltd, a commercial growing business which produces onions, potatoes and barley on 260ha (includes 60ha leased) in the north Waikato.

Ballance Farm Environment Award (BFEA) judges said Chris and Vikki have developed a successful business in a challenging sector “while enhancing environmental values”.

“This has been achieved through productive family partnerships, passionate dedication and clever business management. They provide excellent role models for farmers while also being open to new ideas and information.”

The Nicholsons learnt of their win at a BFEA ceremony on March 20. They were also presented with the Hill Laboratories Harvest Award and the WaterForce Integrated Management Award.

About 140ha of ‘Hinemoa’ is cropped. Onions and potatoes are grown for the local market and export, and barley is harvested for grain and straw. The farm also runs about 150 cattle, which are managed by John who started the growing operation about 35 years ago and still works in the business.

Judges said the Nicholsons have a great knowledge of the physical and nutrient requirements of their soils and “an excellent understanding around water use”.

Over the years, Chris and Vikki, who have been growing commercially for about 20 years, have become increasingly aware of the value of the farm’s rich volcanic soils.

Soil testing and nutrient budgeting is undertaken regularly and an agronomist is contracted to advise on all aspects of growing. Soils are carefully managed to minimise soil loss and silt traps are used to prevent silt from reaching the nearby Waikato River.

Crops are planted to suit contour, and good use is made of shelterbelts.

Water is essential to maintain a sustainable cropping operation and five years ago the Nicholsons built a large dam to provide storage for irrigation. The areas around this dam have been planted in native species which provide a home for bird life.

Gullies, remnant bush and wetland areas are also being fenced and protected.

Hinemoa employs four full-time staff and about 20 casuals. Long-term staffer Jeff Billington is a crucial member of the team.
BFEA judges said the Nicholsons take immense pride in their product and have great passion for their “strongly vertically-integrated” operation.

“Chris and Vikki value the long term relationships they have gained within the industry and they are always looking for improvements within their business.”

Judges also noted the Nicholson’s active contribution to the community.

A field day will be held on the Nicholson’s Murray Road property on May 9.

Award winners in the 2012 Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards were;

Supreme winners, Hill Laboratories Harvest Award, WaterForce Integrated Management Award; Chris and Vikki Nicholson, Hinemoa Quality Producers Ltd, Pukekawa.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Farm Award, Massey University Discovery Award;Brian and Jacqui Wellington, Te Awamutu.

Ballance Agri-Nutirents: Nutrient Management Award, LIC Dairy Farm Award; Frank and Wendy Portergys, Braemar Lands Ltd, Morrinsville.

PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award; John and Jenny van Woerden, Waihi.

Waikato Regional Council Water Protection Award; Ian and Judy Nelson - Resolution Dairy Unit, Landcorp Farming Ltd and Wairakei Pastoral Ltd, Taupo.

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