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National Title-Winning Farmers Have 'X-Factor', Farm Environment Competition Judge Says

4 July 2011

National Title-Winning Farmers Have 'X-Factor', Farm Environment Competition Judge Says

Ballance Farm Environment Awards National Winners, Grant and Bernadette Weller, will be superb ambassadors for New Zealand agriculture and horticulture, says Massey University’s Jacqueline Rowarth.

The Wellers, who farm an 850hectare (effective) sheep and beef farm in Southland, were named winners of the Gordon Stephenson National Winner trophy at the New Zealand Farm Environment Award (NZFEA) Trust’s Sustainability Showcase in Hastings on June 25.

They were chosen from the nine regional Supreme winners of the 2011 Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

The National Winner judging team was led by Professor Rowarth, Institute of Natural Resources, Massey University.

She says picking an inaugural winner was no easy task as all the regional winners had shown great commitment to the values of the award, making a significant contribution in their region through economic, environment and social activities.

“But the Wellers had the ‘X-factor’.”

The judging panel also included Warwick Catto, head of Research and Environment, Ballance Agri-Nutrients, Alistair Polson, Agriculture Trade Envoy, Todd Charteris, East Coast regional manager, Rabobank New Zealand, and Greg Glover, deputy chair of the NZFEA Trust.

Prof. Rowarth said the judges were looking for a number of qualities, including leadership.

“Among the nine couples interviewed, we were impressed by the fact that all said that for them it was by example – getting stuck in and doing what was required and then standing by what they had done to show whoever was interested.”

As well as commitment on their home property, entrants were also judged for their conviction that clean green and productive was possible on a much wider scale.

“And we looked for communications skills - for the couple that could express their vision for New Zealand into the future with passion. The couple that could talk in rural and urban areas, and go overseas with the message that New Zealand has great food produced from a great environment by people who care passionately about the future.”

Prof. Rowarth says the Weller’s acceptance speech was a ‘wow’ moment and a highlight of the awards evening.

She said the Wellers spoke with a clarity and vision that will serve them well in their future role of representing New Zealand agricultural and horticultural sectors.

She also praised the ability of the Farm Environment Awards to bring together innovative and creative practitioners, agribusiness professionals and leaders in education and research to prove that it is possible to achieve sustainability in terms of clean, green and productive.

Gordon Stephenson with Bernadette and Grant Weller

“In fact, we’re defining it – leading the world in developments to ensure that in 100 years, NZ is still clean, green and productive – the goal that Gordon Stephenson established.

“When they said it couldn’t be done, they forgot about team New Zealand – all of us working together towards the same goal. The Farm Environment Awards have made it possible to showcase great people, and the Wellers will take the message to the world.”

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.