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Award-Winning Dairy Farmers as Environmentally Enthusiastic as Ever

1 January 2009

Award-Winning Dairy Farmers as Environmentally Enthusiastic as Ever

Paul and Joanna McCarthy and their daughters and Graeme Smith, General Manager Sales and Marketing, Ballance Agri-Nutrients 

Having picked up the Supreme title in the 2009 Bay of Plenty Ballance Farm Environment Awards, Paul and Joanna McCarthy could be forgiven for taking time out to savour their win.

But the opposite has happened. Paul describes the win and the leadership role that comes with it as "the most rewarding experience in my farming career".

He and Joanna are as passionate as ever about environmental sustainability. Work on their Galatea farm continues at pace and the couple are keen to help others learn from their experiences.

"We don't want to sit back on our laurels. I want to keep doing this at 100 miles an hour."

The McCarthy's have put 23 years of hard work into developing 131ha near Murupara into a profitable dairy unit, described by the Farm Environment Award assessment team as "almost the perfect situation one could wish for when farming".

As well as the Supreme title the couple also received the PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award, the LIC Dairy Farm Award and the Fish and Game New Zealand Eastern Region Water Management/Conservation Award.

Paul says the leadership role that comes with winning the prestigious competition has brought them into contact with a huge range of people. "Its been amazing and the benefits are still coming."

The McCarthy farm was among five dairy operations to win Supreme titles in the 2009 competition and Paul says this was good news for an industry that has taken a real hammering.

"Most of us care very much about environmental sustainability and I think this competition plays a great part in showcasing some of the good work that is being done."

Since their win the McCarthy's have been happy to open their farm up to others to exchange knowledge and information. DairyNZ hosts discussion group meetings on the property and Paul has also invited AgITO students to the farm.

"I think it's essential that young farmers get these messages stuck in their heads. We can't ignore the fact that what other people (consumers and tourists) think of our farms is very important for our future."

Paul and Joanna have entered the annual Ballance Farm Environment Awards three times.

"Each year we've made sure we have taken on board what the assessors have said and that advice has helped us to continue to move forward in farming."

Paul says he and Joanna were initially hesitant about entering the 2009 competition. "We thought we would leave it a year or two because we didn't feel the farm was as park-like as we would have wanted."

But after some gentle arm-twisting they decided to give it a go. He describes the win as a wonderful acknowledgement of his family's efforts over the years.

The McCarthy's are now encouraging other farmers to enter the 2010 competition. Paul, who is now an assessor (he doesn't like the term 'judge'), says one of the key messages he wants to get across to potential entrants is that their farm doesn't have to be in pristine condition to win an award.

"Don't let a bit of junk behind the shed stop you entering the awards."

He is also keen to stress that the competition is about "more than planting a couple of trees".

During the judging process, which is conducted in a friendly and relaxed manner, entrants will be asked to explain the vision behind the work they are doing and talk about how they plan to achieve their goals.

Paul says other factors, such as community involvement, are also taken into account.

"There are many reasons people should enter and they should definitely give it a go."

Entries for the 2010 Bay of Plenty Ballance Farm Environment Awards opened on September 1 and close on October 16, 2009.

For information on entering the Bay of Plenty Ballance Farm Environment Awards, contact Bay of Plenty BFEA Regional Coordinator Kirsten Winter, phone (07) 573 5238 or emailbop@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