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Farm Environment Awards 'Set Seed' For Improved Sustainability

1 January 2009

Farm Environment Awards 'Set Seed' For Improved Sustainability

Northland farmers Alister and Lynn Candy have always been passionate about the native bush that occupies a large chunk of their Okaihau farm.

Located east of Kerikeri, their dairy and beef operation is flanked by two Department of Conservation reserves. Around 220ha of 'Plateau View' farm is in grass and the balance of the 435ha property (including run-off) is mostly native bush which has been gradually fenced off over the years.

Alister's parents moved from Levin in 1960 and the family fell in love with the region and the lifestyle it had to offer.

"I really enjoy pig hunting. We’ve also got a boat, so we do a lot of fishing and diving," says Alister.

The home block milks 320 Jersey cows on 106ha, with a run-off used for grazing dairy heifer replacements and beef cattle.

Alister says in the early days he and Lynn were always having problems with stock in bush and wetlands. Fencing these areas has made sound economic sense because stock management is much easier.

"It's great not to have to hunt around at 4:30am, looking for cows that might be hiding in the bush or stuck in a swamp."

In 2007 Alister and Lynn were encouraged to enter the Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards. This proved a highly rewarding experience.

"The judges came out and we took them all over the place and they really seemed to enjoy themselves," says Alister.

He says the judges provided some excellent feedback and encouraged them to continue doing what they were doing.

"All the judges had a lot of experience and they came up with some good advice on how we should fence and plant different areas."

Since then, with support from Northland Regional Council, the Candys have fenced off and planted another 3.5km of waterways. Last year they also put 171ha of native bush into a QEII National Trust covenant. This block is now known as 'Candy Bush'.

In that same year Alister and Lynn decided that after 36 years of milking cows, it was time to take a break. So their daughter Christine and another female employee looked after the cows while Alister and Lynn reared the calves and did the tractor work.

This break also gave them time to set up a trapping programme designed to protect kiwi in the area. Conducted in conjunction with the Northland Regional Council, the trapping programme covers stoats, rats, mustelids and cats. The initial trap-setting and poisoning work was done by the Candys' son, Scott.

"We have really appreciated the help Northland Regional Council gave in setting up the programme, which is available to anyone."

Alister says the area has a good population of kiwi and the number and location of the birds is monitored by identifying calls during the mating season. He says bird numbers appear to have increased since the trapping programme began and the Kiwi Foundation has financed a second round of rat poisoning.

A year out of the farm dairy also gave him time to be a judge for the 2009 Ballance Farm Environment Awards, and as someone who has been both a judge and an entrant, he urges farmers to enter this year's competition.

"I think anyone that enters is going to get a lot out of it. These awards set the seed for some really good ideas while encouraging farmers to go and get on with it."

Entries for the 2010 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards close on December 7, 2009. For more information or an entry form, contact BFEA regional coordinator Gayle Farrell, phone (09)433 1576, email northland@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