1 January 2009
Wairarapa farm manager Daniel Houston entered last year's Ballance Farm Environment Awards to "find out what it's all about". He and the farm's owners certainly weren't expecting to win a major category award.
Daniel manages Eringa Farm, a 1050ha sheep and beef property southeast of Masterton. Owned by Keith and Shona Maslin, the hill country farm runs over 10,000 stock units, with a heavy emphasis on sheep to reduce pressure on erosion-prone hills.
Daniel was encouraged to enter the 2009 Greater Wellington/Wairarapa BFEA competition by a Land Management Officer from the Wellington Regional Council. He'd already heard a lot about the competition and decided entering it would be an interesting and worthwhile experience.
"I also wanted to enter on behalf of Keith and Shona because they have been right behind all the work done here and they have shown a lot of faith in farming, even though the last few years have been pretty tough."
The Maslins, who live off-farm, bought the South Wairarapa property eight years ago and employed Daniel to run it. Keith Maslin is an eye surgeon in Wellington and Shona has a background in tourism, but Daniel says the couple is passionate about farming and makes regular visits to Eringa.
Over the last eight years the Maslins and their manager have made significant efforts to improve the farm's environmental and economic sustainability. Erosion work has been a key priority, with "literally thousands" of poles planted to stabilise the mudstone and clay soils on erosion-prone slopes.
"We've also retired areas of native bush and more recently we've been fencing off waterways," says Daniel.
"In the last five years we've really got stuck in to this type of work and we've given the place a very good tidy up."
BFEA judges were clearly impressed, awarding the farm the Silver Fern Farms Livestock Farm award. They described Eringa as a very tidy operation, with good attention to detail, an outstanding regrassing programme and impressive erosion control plantings.
"Most of this development has been funded out of farm income and the operation is well set for a production and profit lift as the development plan matures."
They also noted the excellent relationship between the owners, their manager and their farm advisor and the high levels of enthusiasm shown by all involved.
Daniel says winning an award as a first-time entrant came as a big surprise.
"We weren't really expecting to win anything. Entering the competition just seemed like a good way to learn more so that we could improve the operation in future. And it certainly did provide a good learning curve. The judges were really good value in terms of the information they provided and their feedback was very positive. They also came up with some good suggestions for ways in which the farm could be further improved."
Daniel says he would certainly recommend the experience to other farmers. " Being involved in a competition like this keeps you on your toes and teaches you to take a good hard look at what is happening in the environment around you."
Entries for the Greater Wellington/Wairarapa Ballance Farm Environment Awards open on 7 September.
For more information on the Greater Wellington/Wairarapa awards, contact BFEA regional coordinator Angeline Colquhoun, phone (06) 379 9313 / 0275263513 or 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@example.com or visit www.bfea.org.nz