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Award-Winning Wairarapa Farm Heads Down Right Track

10 October 2011

Award-Winning Wairarapa Farm Heads Down Right Track

Jeff Ravenwood, Homewood, Masterton

Long-term sustainability has always been a key goal for coastal Wairarapa farmers Jeff and Shirley Ravenwood. The Ravenwood family owns a 590ha (effective) sheep, beef and forestry property in the Homewood district, southwest of Masterton.

While ‘Fernglen’ carries a high level of debt, Jeff says they have always tried to put money aside for environmental projects such as tree planting, native bush conservation and waterway protection.

About 170ha of marginal country has also been planted in pine trees, with the Ravenwoods claiming carbon credits for this forestry.

Jeff says one of the key aims of the conservation and forestry work is to make the operation sustainable in the long term.

“The previous three to four years were tough going,” he says, “but the last season has been great for product prices and that has helped us to reduce debt and reinvest back into the farm.”

He and Shirley are proud of what they have done on Fernglen and last year they were encouraged to enter the Greater Wellington Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

They won the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Award in the 2011 competition.

Jeff says they went into the awards because they wanted to see how Fernglen stacked up against other farming operations in terms of sustainability.

“We wanted to find out what are strengths and weaknesses are, and what aspects of our farm we could improve on.”

The feedback from the judges was very positive, reassuring the Ravenwoods that they were on the right track.

“The judges did point out one or two areas where we could make changes and we have taken on that advice and put plans in place,” says Jeff.

“But we were chuffed to win the Livestock Award and we will definitely re-enter the competition again in future and chase the big prize.”

Jeff says one of the major benefits of being involved in the competition was that it gave them access to professional advice for free.

“We had all this great feedback from outside professionals at no cost. It was definitely a good learning curve and we found it to be a very rewarding experience.”

The awards ceremony was another highlight, with the Ravenwoods and other sheep and beef farmers rubbing shoulders with dairy and cropping farmers and a diverse range of other business owners, including beekeepers and cheese makers.

“It was a great event. I was blown away by the professionalism of the whole thing.”

Jeff says he would recommend the competition to any farmer or horticulturist wanting to find out how their operation is performing in terms of sustainability.

Entries for the 2012 Greater Wellington Ballance Farm Environment Awards close on October 21, 2011.

For more information on the Greater Wellington/Wairarapa awards, contact BFEA regional coordinator Angeline Colquhoun, phone 06 378 8008 / 0275 263 513 or emailwellington@bfea.org.nz.

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.