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Waikato's Third-Time-Lucky Ballance Farm Environment Award Winners Encourage Farmers to Get Entries In

1 January 2010

Waikato's Third-Time-Lucky Ballance Farm Environment Award Winners Encourage Farmers to Get Entries In

Waikato Winner Gray Baldwin and Sharemilker Hamish Putt

South Waikato dairy farmer and consultant Gray Baldwin is a big believer in the old adage of “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”.

He and wife Marilyn have entered the Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards three times in recent years and in their third attempt they and their sharemilkers Hamish and Jane Putt collected the Supreme award for the region.

While it was great thrill to win the 2009 title, Gray says a key reason for re-entering the awards was to find out how they could improve the sustainability of their organic dairy business which milks about 430 cows on 180ha, west of Putaruru.

He and Marilyn learnt a lot from their previous involvement in the competition and the expert judges provided valuable feedback on their operation.

“One of the things the judges picked up on the first time we entered was that while we had plenty of forestry trees, we had very few trees planted directly for stock shade and shelter. So that really encouraged us to improve our shelter plantings.”

Last year the judging panel described the Baldwin and Putt dairy venture, ‘Wuppertal Partnership’, as “an impressive farming operation founded on excellent working relationships with sustainability in mind throughout the business…. and a big picture vision beyond the farm gate”.

Entries for the 2011 Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards are now open and Gray is encouraging other farmers to enter the competition, even if they feel their farm isn’t right up to scratch.

He talks to a lot of farmers who say they ‘plan’ to enter the awards “but not until they’ve got the duckpond finished, the last tree planted and the last pot-hole filled”.

But his advice is to enter anyway.

“Put all the unfinished stuff aside and have a crack at entering. The farm is never going to be 100% ready and the sooner you enter, the sooner you can find out about what you need to do in future.”

The Baldwins and the Putts were among Supreme winners from eight regions to attend the national Sustainability Showcase held in Wellington in 2009.

Gray says this event, which included a dinner at Parliament Buildings, was a truly rewarding experience.

“We met a lot of interesting people and we’ve kept in touch with many of them. It was great to be able to network with so many leaders in the field of environmental sustainability.”

Jane Putt says she and Hamish thought the awards were a fantastic experience.

“We’d never entered a farming competition like this before. Just preparing the entry was a great exercise in itself,” she says.
“We actually enjoyed the judging process and the judges gave us really good advice and some very encouraging feedback.”
Like Gray, she says the Sustainability Showcase was a huge highlight and she and Hamish thoroughly enjoyed mingling with industry leaders and the other Supreme winners.

Entries for the 2011 Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards close on November 12, 2010. Information on the awards and an entry form can be obtained from Tracy Brown, Waikato BFEA Regional Coordinator, ph (07) 888 5949, emailWaikato@bfea.org.nz, or by visiting www.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