14 November 2011
Otago farmers Dave and Janene Divers are eager to improve the long term sustainability of their 1500ha family farm near Milton.
With Dave’s parents, Lindsay and Jill, the couple have been looking for ways to protect the hill-country farm’s natural features while also increasing profitability.
They recently diversified into farmstay accommodation, building a quality self-contained log cabin in the native bush which covers about one-quarter of the 11,000 stock unit sheep and beef farm.
‘Cascade Creek Retreat’ will cater for international and local visitors who want to enjoy some of the natural beauty the farm has to offer.
Dave says areas of regenerating native bush were previously grazed with livestock, but some are now being fenced and left to regrow. Walkways have been constructed in areas surrounding the log cabin.
The Divers are also planting trees and plan to fence off some of the many waterways that cross the farm.
Dave, who took over management two years ago, says good product returns over the last year have enabled them to ensure the sustainability of the operation.
He says the aim of all this work is to capitalise on the farm’s strengths.
“We are really lucky to have all the native bush and waterways. We’ve still got a lot of work to do but it’s a real team effort involving the family and our staff.”
Last year the Divers entered the Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards with the key aim of securing advice on how to successfully combine profitability with environmental sustainability.
Dave says they were particularly interested in information on tree planting, protecting waterways and weed and pest eradication.
“We wanted to find out the best way to economically fence a flood-prone stream, and what plants we should use.”
The Divers also showed the judges their plans for the new log cabin and tourism business.
Dave says the judging process was enjoyable and extremely informative.
“The judges weren’t there to criticise,” he says.
“For us it was a great opportunity to get a range of professionals out onto our farm and throw a few ideas around. They gave us some really good advice on how we could get the best out of each different area of the farm and we have already implemented some of these changes.”
Dave says while the family is in the early stages of the sustainability journey, they will definitely re-enter the Ballance Farm Environment Awards again in future.
“We learnt a lot and we got some really good contacts out of it,” he says.
“One of the best things about this competition is that it’s not all about winning prizes, it’s about what you can learn. I’d say any farmer could get something out of being involved.”
Entries for the 2012 Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards close on December 9, 2011. The awards are open to agricultural, horticultural and viticultural businesses.
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 Award Trust, phone 07 834 0400, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.