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Urban Move Doesn't Stop Northland Couple's Quest for Rural Sustainability

12 October 2011

Urban Move Doesn't Stop Northland Couple's Quest for Rural Sustainability

Award-winning Northland farmers Peter and Pam Kelly may have moved to town, but they haven’t lost their passion for agriculture.

The supreme winners of the 2009 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) have put their 300ha beef and forestry farm in the capable hands of manager Bernard Fanning while they pursue a new challenge in Dargaville.

Peter says they are converting a historic hotel, established in the 1880s, into a bed and breakfast business.

But he and Pam still make frequent trips to their Omamari farm north of Dargaville.

In 2009 the Kelly’s won plaudits from the BFEA judges for the way in which they ran their specialist beef operation. Two-thirds of the west coast farm is under Technosystem for intensive beef cattle production, achieving up to 600kg/ha of carcase weight annually.

Judges noted the high standard of animal husbandry and were impressed with the farm’s production and excellent financial returns. These results were achieved in balance with good pest management, planting, soil management and other environmental policies.

Peter and Pam first entered the Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards in 2007 because they wanted to get independent and expert feedback on the sustainability of their operation.

“When you are farming, you are often out there on your own,” says Peter “and sometimes you are never quite sure if what you are doing is exactly the right thing.”

The BFEA judging process provided positive reinforcement that the Kellys were on the right track.

“The judges are clever and they gave us some very useful advice. We met some very interesting people throughout the process and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.”

Peter and Pam entered again in 2009 and were “totally blown away” when they were announced supreme winners.

“We loved the awards evening. The speakers were excellent and the whole thing was really inspiring.”

Attending the annual Sustainability Showcase in Wellington with other supreme winners was a major highlight for the couple.

Peter says they found the awards experience extremely motivating. Bernard Fanning shares their philosophies on sustainable farming and has continued their good work on the farm.

“If anything, the win has inspired us to get cracking and do more planting and more waterway fencing,” says Peter.

“We felt we had to prove we were worthy winners.”

Peter says he would recommend the competition to any farming, forestry or horticultural operation.

“It’s a great way to get feedback and inspiration. Looking at your business through other peoples’ eyes makes you lift your game.”
He says the awards are also a “nice thing” to be part of.

“And I really think they are good for our industry because they highlight sustainable farming practices.”

Entries for the 2012 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards close on November 4, 2011. For more information or an entry form, contact Stephanie Gordon, Northland BFEA regional coordinator, phone 09 432 0037 or email northland@bfea.org.nz.

Information on the awards can also be obtained from www.bfea.org.nz or the Northland Regional Council.

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 david.natzke@nzfeatrust.org.nz.