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Waimea Valley Farmers Win Top Award In 2011 Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards

14 April 2011

Waimea Valley Farmers Win Top Award In 2011 Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards

Visionary management of their family’s sheep and beef farm in the Waimea Valley has earned Grant and Bernie Weller the Supreme Award in the 2011 Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

The Wellers, who farm 890ha (850ha effective) between Balfour and Riversdale, received their award at a special Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) ceremony on April 13. They also collected the Waterforce Water Quality Award and the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Habitat Improvement Award.

BFEA judges were impressed with the strong family involvement in ‘Crosshill’, noting the family’s desire to retain the natural habitat and “their ability to achieve this while still operating a profitable and productive farm business”.

They commended Grant and Bernie’s approach to farm management and their “very clear vision, mission and culture”.

The couple has managed Crosshill since 1997 and currently run about 6000 stock units. Stock wintered on the farm last year included 2600 Texel ewes, 753 two-tooths, 770 hoggets, 200 Hereford-Angus breeding cows, 85 heifers and 47 steers.

The Wellers, who were in their meat processor’s top two percent of suppliers for lamb yield last season, are heavily focused on improving flock genetics while running a low-input animal health system.

Situated on the northerly-facing side of the Hokonui Hills, about 175ha of the farm is flat to rolling and the balance is hill country rising to 600 metres above sea level. Areas of native bush are spread throughout the farm and numerous waterways run down the property and into the Waimea Stream.

Judges said the family’s passion for the natural habitat was very evident, with considerable effort put into enhancing water quality and protecting native vegetation through riparian fencing and planting. Careful grazing management also helps to preserve tussock on the hills. This tussock provides good shelter for stock.

After taking over management of the farm in 1997, Grant and Bernie have undertaken significant regrassing and shelter-belt planting work.

Over 200 cabbage trees, grown by Bernie’s Auckland-based brother from farm-sourced seed, are also being planted on one of Crosshill’s three areas that are being covenanted with QE II and Landcare trusts.

Bernie Weller and her four siblings grew up on the Northern Southland farm, which was previously farmed by her parents, Pat and Mary Ryan. Pat and Mary still live on the farm and all family members have strong emotional ties to Crosshill. This connection to the land led to the need to formalise farm succession into Grant and Bernie’s care.

Judges praised the couple’s excellent planning and goal setting, and their use of a clearly documented farm vision and mission statement.

They said the Wellers partner with “successful and innovative professionals” for business coaching and animal genetics advice.
Grant and Bernie have three daughters – Hannah, 10, Aimee, 8, and Lucy, 6. The family is fully involved in the Riversdale community, including the gymnastics, hockey and golf clubs.

A BFEA Supreme Award field day will be held on Crosshill on Tuesday May 10, 2011.

Other winners in the 2011 Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards were:

Ballance Agri-Nutrients Nutrient Management Award: Willie and Phillipa Menlove “Sweetacres”, Lumsden

LIC Dairy Farm Award: Geoff and Jodelle Clark “Glendale”, Hokonui

Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Farm Award: Landcorp’s “Lynmore Farm” - manager Wayne Webb, Te Anau

Hill Laboratories Harvest Award: Willie and Phillipa Menlove “Sweetacres” Lumsden

PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award: Wayne Webb, Landcorp’s “Lynmore Farm”, Te Anau

Massey University Discovery Award: David and Fiona Hughes “Balleyhooley Dairy Ltd”, Drummond

For more information on the 2011 Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards, contact Annabel Radford, Southland Regional Coordinator, Ballance Farm Environment Awards,southland@bfea.org.nz, phone (03) 248 7246 or 021 762 648.

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.