1 January 2009
If it wasn't for a neighbour putting his name forward, Ian Cummings may not have been involved in the Ballance Farm Environment Awards.
"I didn't think I was doing anything special. I was just getting on with what I do."
Despite being "roped in" to the competition, Ian, who farms a challenging 807ha hill country farm, northwest of Taihape, was named the Supreme winner of the 2008 Horizons Ballance Farm Environment Awards. He also took home two category awards - the PPCS (now Silver Fern Farms) Livestock Award and the Horizons Regional Council Award.
The win came as a huge surprise. Now Ian is urging other farmers to give the competition a go, even if they feel they aren't doing anything extraordinary.
"Most farmers are doing their best when it comes to environmental sustainability because they know how important it is to their future," he says.
"They regard anything they can do to improve sustainability as an investment. Because what we do has to be sustainable and it has to be profitable, otherwise farming is going to go down the gurgler."
After winning the Supreme title Ian went on to represent his region as an ambassador for environmental sustainability. He was also a judge for the 2009 Horizons awards - an experience he thoroughly enjoyed.
"It was great to get out there and meet new people and have a look at a lot of different farms. As a judge you get to see people doing a range of different things to improve sustainability. I’ve even been able to pick up ideas to use on my own farm."
Improving sustainability is a long-term process and Ian says the farms entered in the 2010 competition will all be at different stages of the process.
"It doesn't really matter if an entrant has just started a project. The important thing is that they can explain how they are doing it and what they hope to achieve."
Ian says the judges try to make the judging process as comfortable as possible for the entrants. "We saw some great presentations last year. We also got some nice tea and scones."
But he is quick to point out that while these refreshments are appreciated, they do not influence the judges' decisions - as his own experience proves. "It's a bit embarrassing, but I don't think the judges even got a glass of water when they came to my place."
The 2008 judges managed to look past this, though, and in their final report they commended Ian for the "outstanding personal effort that has gone into turning a former overgrown, neglected lease block into a productive sheep and beef unit".
He continues to improve his farm, with the aim of making it a better place for future generations. Recent work includes pole planting on steeper slopes to prevent erosion. He is also looking to retire more areas of native bush.
Ian is a looking forward to the 2010 Ballance Farm Environment Awards getting underway and he hopes to be again involved as a judge.
"I'd strongly recommend the competition to anyone who is considering entering. They should definitely give it a go."
Entries for the 2010 Horizons Ballance Farm Environment Awards open on 1 September 2009. For more information or an entry form, contact Horizons BFEA regional coordinator Margaret Matthews, phone (06) 342 7783 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, contact David Natzke, General Manager, New Zealand Farm Environment Award Trust, phone 07 834 0400, email