30 September 2011
Canterbury dairy farmers Alan and Sharron Davie-Martin didn’t enter the Ballance Farm Environment Awards for the prizes; they entered to learn how to improve the sustainability of their farming business.
The former Northlanders shifted to Canterbury six years ago and now farm a 141ha (effective) dairy unit west of Culverden.
Alan says they have always tried to farm in an environmentally-friendly manner. Like the majority of dairy farmers, he is very aware of the need to promote a good image of NZ dairying to urban New Zealanders and overseas consumers.
“I don’t think we are doing anything special,” he says, “but wherever possible we’ve tried to reinvest in improving the farm and making it more sustainable”.
Some of the original trees on the farm were removed to accommodate irrigation systems, but Alan and Sharron have planted new trees to provide shade and shelter for livestock and to improve the aesthetic appeal of the farm.
They have also invested heavily in an efficient farm effluent disposal system.
“Farm effluent is a major resource, and the interest cost of the capital used for this system has been met by fertiliser savings.”
The Davie-Martins entered the Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards in 2010 because they wanted to get an outside view of their operation and see how it compared with other farms.
“It was our first time in the awards, so we didn’t really know what to expect,” says Alan.
But the judging process was a relatively relaxed “two-way dialogue”.
“We were able to learn a lot from the judges. They had some good ideas to share with us.”
The judges were clearly impressed with the Davie-Martin farm, awarding it the LIC Dairy Farm award.
Alan says they came out of the competition feeling reassured they were heading in the right direction as far as sustainability goes.
“For us it was about trying to enhance our knowledge and find out how we could do things better in future.”
He says he and Sharron also enjoyed the way the competition brought them into contact with similarly enthusiastic and like-minded farmers.
“It’s a great competition because it’s not just dairy farmer against dairy farmer. There were a whole lot of other farming types involved and it was great to chew the fat with other sectors of the rural community.”
Alan says he and Sharron would like to enter the awards again in future.
“I think it’s definitely something you have to get into to.”
Entries for the 2012 Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards close on October 17, 2011. For more information on the Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards, contact Nicola Hunt, Regional Co-ordinator, ph (03) 314 9586 or email Nicola.Hunt@ecan.govt.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 firstname.lastname@example.org.