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Hawke's Bay Farmers Win Supreme Title In First East Coast Ballance Farm Environment Awards

25 March 2011

Hawke's Bay Farmers Win Supreme Title In First East Coast Ballance Farm Environment Awards

A Takapau farming couple who have developed a highly sustainable “picture perfect” farm has been named Supreme winner of the inaugural East Coast Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Judges described the Central Hawke's Bay farming operation of Steve and Jane Wyn-Harris as “one of the most highly developed and sustainable sheep and cattle farms in New Zealand”.

The couple learnt of their win at a special Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) ceremony in Napier on March 24, where they also collected the Beef+Lamb NZ Livestock Award and the PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award.

Steve and Jane’s farming business comprises 358ha spread over two properties east of Takapau. They purchased the original home farm ‘Marlow’ from Steve’s parents in 1985 and have since developed both blocks into a highly productive operation. They were named Hawke's Bay Farmer of the Year in 1994.

Livestock is grazed on the farm’s easy-rolling contour divided into 130 paddocks totalling 320ha. Stock wintered in 2010 included 194 rising-one-year bulls, 57 rising-two-year bulls, 1392 ewes, 522 hoggets and 148 stud ram hoggets.

The livestock operation includes the Marlow Coopworth stud, which was established in the late 1960s by Steve’s parents.
Judges said Steve is a top class stockman who achieves impressive production.

They described the farm as “intensively subdivided with reticulated water, shade and shelter in every paddock”.

The farm is intensively monitored and Steve uses this information to pre-empt animal health and climate issues and for marketing to maximise returns.

Steeper country has been planted in trees, including 29ha of forestry and 6ha of other species for stock shade, shelter, animal fodder and farm beautification. Nut trees have also been planted for food production.

Erosion-prone hills have been fenced and planted, and run-off filtration and water flow distribution has been improved with the fencing of wetlands and most waterways.

To further reduce pressure on soils, the cattle ratio is kept to a maximum of 40%, with mostly yearling bulls wintered.

As the farm is relatively small, Steve has developed interests off-farm to provide additional income to support the family and to further invest in the property.

A well-known rural commentator and former Landcorp director, he is described by judges as a focused and passionate farmer who is open to new ideas and leads from the front when it comes to environmental sustainability.

He and Jane take real pride in sharing the property and their farming achievements with others.

The couple has three sons – Jason, 19, Hugh, 17, and Matt, 14 – all who help out on the farm.

Steve and Jane also have a history of community participation, including involvement with most aspects of local education and sport and many local and national agricultural bodies.

Jane, a former dental nurse, is a qualified and award-winning tennis coach. Steve anchors a farming show on radio and writes a well-read weekly column for a farming newspaper.

A BFEA field day will be held on ‘Marlow’, with the date to be advised.

Other award-winners in the 2011 East Coast Ballance Farm Environment Awards were:

East Coast Farming For The Future Award (sponsored by the Gisborne District Council and the Hawke's Bay Regional Council); James Hunter, Rangitoto, Porangahau.

Ballance Agri-Nutrients Habitat Improvement Award; James Hunter, Rangitoto, Porangahau.

Ballance Agri-Nutrients Nutrient Management Award; David Clark, Opou Station, Manutuke.

Hill Laboratories Harvest Award; David Clark, Opou Station, Manutuke.

Massey University Discovery Award; Brittany Thompson, Elephant Hill Winery, Te Awanga.

LIC Dairy Farm Award; Nick and Nicky Dawson, Great Glen Farms, Patoka.

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.