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Coastal Farmers Collect Top Farming Award

1 January 2010

Coastal Farmers Collect Top Farming Award

Wairarapa farmers George and Sarah Tatham are the Supreme winners of the 2010 Greater Wellington/Wairarapa Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

The Tathams, who farm a 2070ha property east of Masterton, received their award at a special ceremony in Masterton on April 22. As well as the Supreme award they also picked up the Ballance Nutrient Management Award and the New Zealand Farm Environment Award Trust Livestock Award.

Their impressive farming operation "Matariki" is situated just south of Riversdale Beach and comprises about 1485ha effective, featuring 5km of coastline.

Sheep, beef cattle and dairy grazers are farmed on flat or medium hill contour, with the steeper land taken out of grazing and planted in either production forestry or natives. The Tathams also grow seed and forage crops.

Like George's parents Bob and Terry, George and Sarah have focused on creating a better farm for the next generation and they have invested heavily in infrastructure and environmental enhancement.

Recent improvements include a major upgrade of the water reticulation system and the creation of a laneway system to improve stock movement. An ambitious fencing plan is underway and this is run in conjunction with an extensive native planting programme.

Two major estuaries on the farm have been fenced and the Tathams are continuing to fence other waterways and small gullies. They have also fenced off areas of native bush and are continuing to plant pines on the poorer areas of the farm.

A poplar planting programme started by Bob Tatham has provided major benefits for erosion control and this is an ongoing priority for George and Sarah. With assistance from the regional council, they have also started removing willows that are hindering water flow in some waterways.

Some parts of the farm are cropped and in most years the Tathams will grow about 30ha of seed peas and 30-50ha of seed barley. They also plant around 50ha of summer forage and 30ha of winter forage.

Fertiliser is applied according to the results of a nutrient budget which takes into account variations in contour and soil type.

Ballance Farm Environment Award (BFEA) judges noted the Tatham's strong focus on increasing soil fertility and production, and their "good understanding of carbon farming opportunities on marginal land".

Staff members are highly valued and have "clearly delegated areas of responsibility".

Judges also praised the Tatham's land-use choices, their well planned subdivision and shelterbelts, and the good retention of native tree cover.

Matariki is a focus farm for the Meat & Wool NZ Wairarapa Monitor Farm Group and judges said this has “added huge value” to the management of the business. George is on the steering committee for this group and is also a member of the East Coast Sheep and Beef Council.

He and Sarah have two children – Poppy, aged two, and Freddy, one.

A field day will be held on Matariki in May.

Other winners in the 2010 Greater Wellington/Wairarapa Ballance Farm Environment Awards were:

LIC Dairy Farm Award and PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award: Bryce and Kylie Baron.

Hill Laboratories Harvest Award and Massey University Discovery Award: Marinus Van der Put and family.

Greater Wellington Regional Council Special Places Award: Bill and Jill Maunsell (Managers Rod & Andrea Easton)

Akura Conservation Centre Lifestyle Farm/Small Block Award: Dougal and Denise MacKenzie

For more information on the Greater Wellington/Wairarapa awards, contact BFEA regional coordinator Angeline Colquhoun, phone (06) 379 9313 / 027 526 3513 or emailwellington@bfea.org.nz
For more information on the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, contact David Natzke, General Manager, New Zealand Farm Environment Award Trust, phone 07 834 0400, emaildavid.natzke@nzfeatrust.org.nz.