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Farm Environment Competition Proves Rewarding For Southland Family

1 January 2009

Farm Environment Competition Proves Rewarding For Southland Family

Jason Miller describes his family's Southland farming operation, 'Roslyn Downs', as "a work-in progress".

But judges in the 2009 Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards were clearly impressed by the Millers' relationship with their land and each other, awarding their venture the PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award.

The family runs a 620ha sheep and cattle farm at Glencoe, halfway between Mataura and Winton, along with a 3500ha property in Northern Southland.

Situated "under the Hokonuis", the home farm is used for breeding and finishing sheep and cattle and also for dairy support, while the larger unit is mainly a breeding block.

The family partnership includes Jason and wife Jocelyn, Jason's parents Chris and Gaynor, Jason's brother, Quentin, and his wife Eleanor.

Jason says development work on the farm is ongoing. Land identified with good productive potential is being drained, fenced and regrassed and non-productive areas, including many wetlands, are targeted for fencing and retirement.

"We love the wetlands and we are keen duckshooters."

He admits the family was a little hesitant when asked to enter the Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards last year.

"Our view was that there is still a lot of work to be done here, but then we started to realise that the awards are not about your farm being in a picture perfect state. They are more about the vision you are working towards."

Jason says they were thrilled to win the Land and Life award.

"Being in a family partnership comes with its own challenges. We realised that we had to develop good people skills right from the start and treat everyone involved with the farm, including our suppliers and contractors, with the same level of respect."

He says the awards' judging process was conducted in a very supportive manner.

"It gave us a good opportunity to re-evaluate what we are doing and make some changes. The judges have obviously seen a range of different farms and they had a lot to offer in terms of ideas. For example, our planting programme was perhaps a little ad hoc at the start, but now we are taking a more planned approach and using free advice from Environment Southland to help us with this."

Jocelyn Miller has also been studying plant propagation, with a plan to carry out amenity planting from cuttings sourced locally.

Entries for the 2010 Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards open on October 1, and Jason says he would "absolutely" encourage other farmers to enter the competition.

"We farmers go out there every day and all we can see is work that has to be done. But don’t let that be a hurdle (to entering the awards) because the judges are far more interested in your philosophy and your view of the future."

He says the family will definitely re-enter the competition again at some stage. "We want to show that we have taken on board what was said and prove that we are moving ahead."

For information on entering the Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards, visitwww.bfea.org.nz or contact Annabel Radford, Southland Regional Coordinator, Ballance Farm Environment Awards, southland@bfea.org.nz, phone (03) 248 7246 or 021 762 648.

Entries close on December 18, 2009.
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