1 January 2010
The Ballance Farm Environment Awards play an important role in highlighting some of the positive and innovative things that are happening in agriculture, says Canterbury farmer Craige Mackenzie.
The former Nuffield scholar says New Zealand farmers are used to getting bad press when it comes to environmental management. But the reality is that most farmers are doing their best to improve sustainability.
"We have some very good farmers out there doing some very good things."
Craige says the Ballance Farm Environment Awards are a way of finding and recognising those farmers.
He and wife Roz run an intensive arable operation on 200ha southwest of Methven, where they utilise precision agriculture and computer modelling to achieve excellent production from conventional and specialist crops.
They entered the Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) for the first time in 2010 and won two category awards - The Ballance Nutrient Management Award and the Environment Canterbury Water Efficiency Award.
BFEA judges were impressed with the Mackenzies intensive monitoring and testing of nutrient requirements to achieve high organic and fertility levels and low nutrient leaching.
They also noted the couple's passion for water efficiency and their intelligent use of technology such as flow meters and neutron probes for monitoring and recording water usage.
Craige says they entered the Ballance Farm Environment Awards because they wanted to benchmark themselves against other farmers.
"We thought we were doing some fairly innovative things in terms of our water and nutrient management and winning these awards helped assure us we were on the right track," he says.
"While we are always trying to do the best we can, we also wanted to see how we could do better. The judges gave us some very useful information on where we could improve."
Craige says building shelter and biodiversity on the farm is a key priority and he was able to gain some excellent advice from the judges on what species of tree to plant.
He says he would definitely recommend the experience of being involved in the awards to others farmers.
"Farmers often underestimate their own abilities but there is a lot to be gained by entering.
"We've got a duty to support competitions like this because it shows the wider public that there is a lot of positive work going on in farming and that farmers really care about environmental sustainability."
Entries for the 2011 Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards open on September 1, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.