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Top Canterbury Farmers Highlight Benefits of Ballance Farm Environment Awards

1 January 2010

Top Canterbury Farmers Highlight Benefits of Ballance Farm Environment Awards

The Ballance Farm Environment Awards help to correct perceptions that arable farmers are mismanaging soil and water resources due to the intensive nature of their operations, says Canterbury farmer Michelle Ward.

She says the competition is good for New Zealand agriculture because it demonstrates to urban New Zealanders and overseas consumers that most farmers are trying hard to protect the environment.

“Sustainability is a big issue for New Zealand farmers. People are looking closely at what farmers are doing and we have to be seen to be managing our resources to the best of our abilities.”

Michelle and husband Nick won the Supreme award and three category awards in the 2009 Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards. Judges described their arable farming operation, which is among the top five percent of arable producers, as “a practical demonstration that intensive agriculture need not have adverse impacts on the environment”. 

Michelle says participating in the annual awards was a hugely rewarding experience and she and Nick would certainly encourage other farmers to “give it a go”.

“It’s a fantastic event to be involved with because it makes you take a good hard look at your whole farm business and where you are heading,” she says.

The Wards, who farm 224ha of irrigated crop and lamb finishing country at Milford, near Temuka, and 230ha of dryland at Geraldine, have entered the awards twice.

Both times, Michelle says, they received great feedback from the judges along with good information on how they could improve the sustainability of their operation in future.

The couple grow a wide variety of crops using minimum tillage techniques. They monitor their soils and water application very carefully to ensure optimal usage of these resources while mitigating environmental effects.

Michelle says the positive feedback received from Ballance Farm Environment Award judges was encouraging.

“It’s always nice to be told by someone else that you are doing a good job.”  

She and Nick enjoyed the judging process and meeting other farmers involved in the competition.

“Seeing what other people are doing can be quite inspirational. It makes you look at your own farming operation to see if you can do something different to improve.”

The National Sustainability Showcase, which bought together supreme winners from around the country, was a definite highlight for the Wards.

Michelle says many farmers would like to enter the competition but hesitate because they don’t think they are ready.

“But the judges don’t worry if things aren’t finished. They just want to see what you have achieved and what your plans are.”

She says farmers who have entered the awards previously should also consider having another go.

“It’s a very positive competition to be involved with because it encompasses sustainability, profitability and community involvement.

“Regardless of whether you win or not, I think this is something that everyone will get something out of.”

Entries for the 2011 Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards close on October 22, 2010. For more information on the Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards, contact Nicola Hunt, Regional Co-ordinator, ph (03) 353 9711 or email Nicola.Hunt@ecan.govt.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.