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Progressive Family Partnership Claims Supreme Title in 2011 Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards

24 March 2011

Progressive Family Partnership Claims Supreme Title in 2011 Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards

Waiomou Valley Farms Ltd is a partnership between Gordon and Pamela Blake and their son, Grant, and his wife, Lindsay.

Situated east of Tirau on 186ha (166ha effective), the Blake’s 530-cow operation was described by judges as an excellent example of intergenerational sustainability, “both environmentally and business-wise”.

The Blake’s win was announced at a Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) ceremony at the Don Rowlands Centre, Lake Karapiro, on March 23rd, where they also collected the LIC Dairy Farm Award.

While their rolling to steep contoured farm is a challenging property, the Blake family has carefully balanced environmental work with the need to “grow the business for the next generations”.

BFEA judges said the farm is being operated in a way that utilises the experience of the two generations to create equilibrium and long-term sustainability.

Managing run-off, retiring steep faces and protecting soil structure are key considerations and the Blakes have put considerable time and effort into protecting and enhancing bush and wetland areas.
The dairy unit was originally established by Gordon on 50ha of his family’s 265ha dry stock farm in 1971.

Gordon and Pam now operate a successful, forward-looking partnership with Grant and Lindsay, who have three young children. Gordon and Pam’s other son, Martin, has his own kiwifruit operation in the Bay of Plenty.

Since Grant returned to Waiomou Valley Farms the dynamics of the operation has changed, with extensive fencing and tracking work conducted to combine what was originally two dairy units into one. In 2009, a new state-of-the-art 50-bail rotary shed was completed and now all cows are milked through this dairy.

While a significant sum of money has gone into converting the farm into one operational unit, the development follows the family’s philosophy of “prudent investment and safe growth, within an environmentally sustainable framework”.

Strict financial control and analysis is carried out by Lindsay- a chartered accountant.

Judges praised this analysis as one of the best they have seen for a dairy farm.

They also noted the solid structure of the farm’s operating systems.

The Blakes have set goals for the next 7 years “and have changed the financial structure of the farm from a family trust to a company to allow the on-going development of the farm for inter-generational change. Both parties continue to look outside the square and evaluate what is best for the long-term viability of their operation.”

The farm has two employees, including one who has been with the Blakes for 33 years.

Gordon Blake is a former councillor and mayor, and he and Pam have made significant contributions to their community over the years.

Judges said the passion that both families have for the dairy industry and community around them “is highly commendable and rarely found these days”.

A BFEA field day will be held at Waiomou Valley Farms, Pakaraka Rd, Tirau, on May 10th, 2011.

Other category award-winners in the 2011 Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards were;

Ballance Agri-Nutrients Habitat Award; Justin, Janine and Martin Nelson (JM Nelson Ltd, Earlswood) Te Aroha.

Hill Laboratories Harvest Award; Justin, Janine and Martin Nelson (JM Nelson Ltd, Earlswood), Te Aroha.

Massey University Discovery Award; Peter and Kathrine McIntyre (Amberdale Trust), Morrinsville.

Beef+Lamb New Zealand Livestock Farm Award; Ross and Pam Townshend (Ranworth Farm Ltd), Te Akau.

Ballance Agri-Nutrients Nutrient Management Award; Derek and Daphne, Philip and Jackie Lugton (Sandphil Land Ltd),Walton.

Environment Waikato Water Protection Award; Derek and Daphne, Philip and Jackie Lugton (Sandphil Land Ltd), Walton.

PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award; Allan and Mary-Anne Goddard (GTG Estate Ltd), Te Kuiti.

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.