1 January 2010
The family that took out the Supreme title in this year's Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards is urging other farmers to enter the 2011 competition.
Described by Ballance Farm Environment Award judges as "a real family affair" Tiroroa Farms Ltd is an equity partnership between Wynn and Tracy Brown and Tony and Coby Brown, who sharemilk around 700 cows on 350ha near Matamata. The farm is owned by a family trust that also involves Wynn and Tony's younger brother, Chris, and their parents, Tom and Barb.
The Browns first entered the Farm Environment Awards in 2001 and won the Habitat Improvement Award. Since then they have continued to work on habitat restoration and water quality management. Almost all streams are fenced and there are several large native plantings on the farm, mainly around ponds and watercourses. Some forestry is also grown and the family is continuing to plant sidling areas.
"We learnt a lot from the first time in the competition and we felt we'd made real progress," says Wynn Brown.
"So we entered the 2010 awards to get more advice and find out if we were on the right track."
Wynn says the judging process made them "step back from the coal face" and take a good hard look at their business and what they had achieved over the last 15-18 years.
He says the feedback offered by the judges after the first judging round was informative and reassuring.
"A lot of time and money goes into tree planting and fencing waterways, so it was good to know that we had been doing it right."
The Browns felt the judging process was informal and enjoyable.
"It was just like having a chat over a cup of tea, and it was a nice to be able to share what we had done with others."
While the Brown family entered the competition to learn more about sustainability, winning the major prize came as a "real surprise" on awards night. As well as the Supreme award they also won the Hill Laboratories Harvest Award and the PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award.
They would certainly encourage other farmers to enter the competition, even if they feel their farm may not be ready.
"There are always a lot of things on the farm that are ongoing and the job is never finished, but this competition gives you a really good opportunity to benchmark yourself and see if you are heading in the right direction as far as sustainability goes," says Wynn.
"It's also a great opportunity to meet and share information with like-minded people and that's been one of the most enjoyable things for us."
Tracy says the whole atmosphere of the competition was friendly and supportive, "making it a nice process to be involved with".
The Browns say the Ballance Farm Environment Awards serve a valuable purpose in highlighting some of the good things that are going on in the dairy industry and the wider farming world.
"Given the size of the rural sector and its contribution to the economy, we think it's important that we have these awards to showcase and promote our industry and our country," says Wynn.
Entries for the 2011 Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards open on October 1, 2010. Information on the awards and an entry form can be obtained from www.bfea.org.nz or Environment Waikato.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.