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Diversified High Country Farm Scoops Supreme Environmental Award

1 January 2010

Diversified High Country Farm Scoops Supreme Environmental Award

Hawarden farmers Dugald and Mandy Rutherford are the supreme winners of the 2010 Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Their win was announced at a Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) ceremony in Christchurch on April 1.

With the help of their son James, the Rutherfords farm sheep, beef, deer and forestry and run a trophy hunting business on 3936ha in North Canterbury. Their operation is spread over three separate farms on Virginia Road, inland from Hawarden.

Low rainfall, steep topography and periodic (and sometimes heavy) snowfalls on the home farm can make for challenging farming conditions, but BFEA judges said the Rutherfords run a very hard property with exceptional skill and care.

"They have dedicated their lives to keeping the property free of weeds and pests and they are environmentalists of the highest degree."

'Melrose', the home farm, comprises 3477ha of hard hill country, rising from 460m above sea level to 1360m asl. Dugald and Mandy have farmed this property since 1975.

The two smaller blocks feature easier contour, and judges noted that all three properties are "well managed, integrated and complementary to the varied enterprises the Rutherfords manage".

These enterprises include fine wool production (the farm carries Corriedale and Merino flocks), a Hereford breeding herd, deer run for velvet, trophy hunting and a significant forest of 200ha.

The Rutherfords started planting trees in 1975 and have been passionate innovators in site selection, species, agroforestry and silviculture. Forestry is used for shelter, soil conservation and income generation while also providing a retirement fund to assist with intergenerational settlement.

Judges said the forestry is cleverly balanced with stock management.

The fragility of topsoils is well recognised and soil health is carefully managed by reducing stocking rates when required and planting poorer pastoral areas in forestry.

Significant areas of matagouri have also been retained to provide wind and snow protection for stock and this, along with the enhancement of flax and native grasses and the planting of native trees in fenced-off agroforestry areas, has helped improve biodiversity. Pests such as wild cats, possums and ferrets are controlled to protect this biodiversity.

The farms are very suitable for fine wool production and Corriedale and Merino wool is enthusiastically marketed "with the minimum of middlemen". Owning their own Corriedale stud also gives the Rutherford's significant control over sheep genetics.

Judges said the Rutherford's long-term planning is carefully thought out and always done with the environment in mind.

"There is deliberate and well-seasoned thinking and planning behind all the big decisions they have made. They have set out to achieve diversification and they have taken control of their future to provide long term sustainability for their farming operation."

The Rutherfords were also commended for their concern for animal health and welfare and strong team work.

As well as the supreme award, the Rutherfords also collected the Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards Committee Habitat Award.

A field day will be held on Melrose in spring.

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

LIC Dairy Award; Alan and Sharron Davie-Martin.

New Zealand Farm Environment Award Trust Livestock Award; Graham Carr.

Hill Laboratories Harvest Award and Massey University Discovery Award; David, Tracy and Andrew Fisher

PGG Wrightson Land & Life Award; Alister and Jeanette Maxwell

Environment Canterbury Water Efficiency Award and Ballance Nutrient Management Award; Craige and Roz Mackenzie

For more information on the 2010 Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards contact Nicola Hunt, Regional Co-ordinator, ph (03) 353 9711 or email BFEA@ecan.govt.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