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Entering Ballance Farm Environment Awards a Good Move, Say Martinborough Viticulturists

1 January 2010

Entering Ballance Farm Environment Awards a Good Move, Say Martinborough Viticulturists

The team at Ata Rangi vineyard and winery almost didn’t enter the Ballance Farm Environment Awards because they felt they were too busy. But the process was nowhere near as time-consuming as first thought and in the end Ata Rangi achieved results beyond its expectations.   

Based in Martinborough, Ata Rangi is owned and run by founder Clive Paton, his wife Phyll Pattie and his sister Ali Paton.

In 2006 Ata Rangi was named Supreme winner of the Greater Wellington Ballance Farm Environment Awards. In their final summary, judges praised the innovation, quality and planning that had been applied to “the environmental, economic and social aspects of the business, resulting in an excellent example of sustainable land use”.

Phyll Pattie says they entered the Ballance Farm Environment Awards because they wanted to benchmark their operation against other farming and horticultural ventures.

“We didn’t set out to win. We did it because it was a good learning exercise.”

However, she says they initially hesitated to enter because they thought it was going to be a time-consuming process.

“We always seem to be very busy and so we didn’t want another big job. But this wasn’t like that at all.”

She says the judging process was relaxed and informal, with the experienced judges providing valuable feedback on the operation.

“The judges knew what they were looking for and it was simply a matter of answering their questions and talking about what we do.”

She says winning the Supreme award and a string of category awards was welcome recognition for all the work Ata Rangi had done to improve sustainability.

The publicity that came with it was also good for marketing the winery’s internationally recognised wines.

“The awards have a lot of credibility and that endorsement certainly strengthened our brand.”

Her advice to anyone considering entering the 2011 Greater Wellington/Wairarapa Ballance Farm Environment Awards is to go for it.

“You’ve got nothing to lose. Even if you don’t win anything it’s still a very worthwhile exercise. It’s great for networking and meeting new people who are committed to a future of sustainable agriculture. Its also good for picking up ideas that make you think outside the square.”

Phyll says Clive, a former sharemilker and one of the first pioneers to plant vines in the Martinborough area, enjoyed being a judge for the competition after their win.

She says he remains heavily committed to his conservation work. This includes planting around 14,000 trees this year on a bush block they own. About 4000 of these are natives and the rest are Eucalypts grown as a future source of chemical-free vineyard posts.

Another key mission for Clive is to see Rata return in force to the South Wairarapa and he has propagated thousands of seedlings for this purpose.

Entries for the 2011 Greater Wellington/Wairarapa Ballance Farm Environment Awards close on October 22, 2010. For more information or an entry form, contact BFEA regional coordinator Angeline Colquhoun, phone (06) 378 8008 / 0275263513 or email wellington@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, email david.natzke@nzfeatrust.org.nz.