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Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards A Great Learning Experience, Says Past-Winner

9 September 2011

Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards A Great Learning Experience, Says Past-Winner

A past winner of the Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards is urging other farmers to enter the 2012 competition.

“I thoroughly recommend everyone have a go because you learn so much in the process,” says Hukerenui dairy farmer Evan Smeath, who with wife Sherleen won the Supreme award for Northland in 2007.

He describes the win as “the pinnacle of our farming career.”

“The contest has opened doors for us and we found the judging experience brilliant. It is so valuable to have people with expertise in their own fields on your property and to be able to discuss sustainability and productivity aspects with them.”

Since their win the Smeaths have continued their involvement with the competition. Evan is currently part of the organising committee and also assists with judging.

“Personally I really enjoy going around other farms and meeting other like-minded farmers. I’ve even picked up a few ideas I can use on my own farm.”

During the judging process, which is conducted in a friendly and relaxed manner, judges look at a whole range of issues to assess the sustainability of an operation.

Evan says the aim is to find farmers achieving a good balance between productive, environmental and social factors.

“We look at the water, soils and the animals. We also look at the people, their business and farm management skills, their staff relations and also their family and community involvement.”

While many farmers feel they are a long way off achieving such a balance, Evan’s advice to farmers who are unsure about entering is to give it a go anyway.

“They should regard it as a starting point on a learning curve. What they learn will help them to decide what to do next.”

Entrants are encouraged to ask questions of the judges who offer a wide range of skills and expertise.

“It’s all about communication. If the judges can’t offer advice on a specific issue, they will put the entrant in touch with someone who can.”

Entries for the 2012 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards open on September 1, 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.

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.