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Farm Environment Awards Dish Up Great Info for Otago Farmer

1 January 2010

Farm Environment Awards Dish Up Great Info for Otago Farmer

East Otago farmer David Smith entered the Ballance Farm Environment Awards to find out how to improve the long term sustainability of his family’s new farm.

While he didn’t win anything first time in, he still found the experience to be very beneficial and he certainly hopes to re-enter the competition in future.

With partner Sarah Ritchie, David runs ‘Mt Watkins’- a 1430ha sheep and beef farm, near Waikouaiti.

He manages the farm on behalf of his parents, Rex and Glenys, former North Otago pig and cropping farmers who bought Mt Watkins about four and a half years ago.

The farm comprises 920ha of freehold land and 510ha of lease land and runs about 2700 breeding ewes and 200 trading cattle. It also finishes about 2500 store lambs which are bought in summer and finished by May.

David describes the farm as ‘river-face contour’, with steep hills and many gullies.

“We’ve got good workable country on the tops of the hills but our biggest challenge is the farm’s exposure to the south-east winds.”

The Smiths have worked hard to improve shelter on the farm, planting around 1000 trees a year- either tree lane species or natives.

The family is also in the early stages of preserving a 10ha wetland area or ‘seep’. This area will be fenced and planted and David says one of the key reasons he and Sarah entered the 2010 Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards was to find out more about how to do this properly and where to get financial assistance.

“We also wanted to benchmark ourselves and see where we stood in terms of environmental sustainability. This is going to be one of the biggest issues for farmers in future and it is hugely important that our businesses are profitable and sustainable in the long term.”

David says the awards judging process was relaxed and informative

“I didn’t really know what to expect, but the whole thing was very interactive. The judges were really helpful and they gave us some excellent feedback on what we were doing.”

David says he also enjoyed meeting other entrants in the competition and “seeing what they had been doing on their farms”.

He came out of the process comfortable that Mt Watkins was heading down the right track as far as long-term sustainability goes.

He would certainly recommend the experience to other farmers.

“Its great for picking up free information,” he says.

“It’s also a good thing to be involved with, and you’ve got nothing to lose by entering.”

Entries for the 2011 Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards open on October 1, 2010. For more information or an entry form, visit www.bfea.org.nz or contact Beatrice Lee, BFEA Otago regional coordinator, phone (03) 473 9566, 027 2088 305 or email otago@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.