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Former Waikato Winners Laud Benefits of Ballance Farm Environment Awards

12 September 2011

Former Waikato Winners Laud Benefits of Ballance Farm Environment Awards

The supreme winners of the 2011 Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards are encouraging other farmers and orchardists to enter the 2012 competition.

Gordon and Pam Blake and their son and daughter-in-law, Grant and Lindsay, won the supreme title this year after entering the competition for the first time.

Situated east of Tirau on 186ha (166ha effective), their 530-cow operation, Waiomou Valley Farms Ltd, was described by judges as an excellent example of intergenerational sustainability, “both environmentally and business-wise”.

Lindsay Blake says entering the competition gave the family the chance to offset some of the negative press lavished upon dairy farming.

“Day in, day out, most dairy farmers are trying to do their best with what they’ve got,” she says.

Lindsay says the competition has given the family confidence “in where we are on our farm today”.

But while the awards programme recognises that great progress has been made, she says it also acknowledges that farming is an indefinite process.

“The environment is ever-changing and the work is never done.”

Gordon Blake says the competition made the family aware “of how lucky we are that Gordon Stephenson (competition founder) had not only the vision but also the drive and determination to make the Farm Environment Awards become a reality all those years ago”.

Pam Blake says winning the top award was a “totally unexpected” thrill.

“We are very proud of the farm and it was nice to be able to show other people what we had done.”

Grant Blake says the well-attended Supreme-winner field day on the farm in May was a real eye-opener.

“We were surprised at the level of interest and support. It showed that there’s a real interest in understanding what sustainable farming is.”

Attending the annual Sustainability Showcase, which honours the nine regional supreme winners, was another highlight for the Blakes. It brought the family into contact with business leaders and farmers from a wide range of farming types.

“The people we have met have been amazing,” says Pam.

“The whole competition was a brilliant experience and we would really recommend it to other farmers,” she says.

“Even those who are in the early stages of the sustainability process will get something out of it. The key is to have a plan so you can show what you are trying to achieve.”

Grant Blake says their involvement with the competition has encouraged the family to look forward beyond the next 20 years “and think more about the big picture”.

He says the awards provide an excellent forum to bring together like-minded people from a cross-section of farming businesses in New Zealand. This is important for encouraging discussion about topical farming issues.

Lindsay Blake says farmers who enter the Ballance Farm Environment Awards get the opportunity to learn much more about their business’s direction and legacy.

She says the competition is unique in that it’s not about prizes or glory; it’s really for people who have a story to tell about sustainability and their progression.

“If you would like to test your farming operation with like-minded people, or you’d like some encouragement without a price tag, this is the competition for you.”

Gordon Blake says the efforts of the Ballance Farm Environment Awards team, their sponsors and supporters, have resulted in a fantastic national competition.

“But its on-going success is dependent on participants stepping up and entering each year.

“We know that those that do will have a most rewarding and enjoyable experience.”

Entries for the 2012 Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards open on September 12, 2011. For more information or an entry form, contact Tracy Brown, BFEA Waikato Regional Coordinator, ph 07 888 5949, 027 291 1716 or email waikato@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.