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Family's Hard Work Recognised with Top Farm Environment Award

1 January 2010

Family's Hard Work Recognised with Top Farm Environment Award

An astute and hard-working Waitahuna family has taken out the Supreme award in the 2010 Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Ronald and Carol Alderton, who farm sheep and grow forestry in partnership with their son David and his partner Paula, received their award at a Ballance Farm Environment Awards ceremony in Dunedin on April 16.

They were also named winners of the New Zealand Farm Environment Award Trust Livestock Award.

The Aldertons farm two properties totalling 580ha in the Waitahuna area, southeast of Lawrence. These farms currently support about 5600 stock units and grow 40ha of trees.

Ronald and Carol purchased the 280ha home farm in 1979 and in 1998 they bought a second farm of 300ha, less than 4km away. Son David and his family live on this second property and David has been farming in partnership with his parents for the past six years.

The Aldertons have worked hard to clear the farm of weeds and develop it through regrassing, tree planting and extensive fencing.

Contour is rolling with steep gullies, and while the climate is described as temperate, three to four snowfalls can be expected each year.

Stock wintered on the farms last year included 3250 Wairere Romney ewes and 1130 two-tooths. The mixed-age ewes (hoggets are not mated) lambed at 142% and average income per stock unit over the last five years was an impressive $82.

In 1991 Ronald and Carol started planting trees in gullies that were weed-prone and hard to muster. Forestry is now a significant part of the operation and Ballance Farm Environment Award (BFEA) judges were impressed with the well planned and continuous planting and pruning programme.

The Aldertons' aim is to have 10% of the farm in trees and they will achieve that goal next year. Plantings are mainly pine, with some Douglas Fir. Eucalypts have been planted for firewood, aesthetics and (along with other species) for shelter.

Family members share the workload when it comes to jobs like planting and pruning the trees and crutching sheep.

BFEA judges noted the great pride the Aldertons have taken in the development of their hill country property.

Stock and financial performance were excellent and the Aldertons worked hard "to achieve consistent performance at a moderate cost per stock unit". Their strategic decision to run sheep on both properties had also helped minimise pasture damage and enhance water quality.

Judges said long term succession plans were in place to enable David and his brother Bruce, who is currently working in Ireland, to continue farming.

They said the family has also demonstrated an impressive commitment to the local community and has always been ready to help others.

A field day will be held on the Alderton farm on November 18.

Other category award winners in the 2010 Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards were:

Hill Laboratories Harvest Award and Ballance Nutrient Management Award: Neville and Bernadette Leslie, Hillend

Massey University Discovery Award: Phil and Donna Smith, Glenspec Holdings, Danseys Pass

PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award: Phillip Hunt and Lizzie Carruthers, Fork Farm, Wanaka

Otago Regional Council Sustainable Resource Management Award: Robert, Jill and Andrew Reid, Verterburn Station, Mahinerangi

For more information on the 2010 Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards, contact Beatrice Lee, BFEA Otago regional coordinator, phone (03) 473 9566, 027 2088 305 or emailotago@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 or visit www.bfea.org.nz