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Farm Environment Award Winners Encouraging Other Growers to Enter

1 January 2009

Farm Environment Award Winners Encouraging Other Growers to Enter

Northland orchardist Mike Crum says entering the Ballance Farm Environment Awards is a great way for growers to show they are serious about environmental sustainability.

Mike and wife Cathy won the Hill Laboratories Harvest Award and the Gallagher Innovation Award in the 2009 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Based at Mangatapere, west of Whangarei, they grow 9ha of avocados on two orchards - one organically certified and the other in conversion. They also manage about 60ha of Kiwifruit on behalf of other growers.

Mike says he saw entering the competition as a way to highlight some of the organic principles they were using and "put forward some ideas" that might be useful to other growers.

BFEA judges were clearly impressed by the couple's orchard management skills and their use of innovative techniques to create biomass and build humus levels. This included growing kikuyu around trees.

Mike says the judging process was enjoyable and more of a discussion than an inquisition. "We had a few laughs with the judges but they asked some challenging questions about what we were doing and why we were doing it. They also offered some good advice on things we could try in future."

He and Cathy took their presentation seriously. "We entered the competition with the aim of doing as well as we could. We wanted to win."

They enlisted the help of their daughter, Emily, to prepare information. "She was raising money for a school trip to England, so we commissioned her to produce a booklet for the judges. She put a lot of effort into it and I think they were impressed."

Mike says winning the awards has been good for the profile of their Kiwifruit management service. Their orchard has been the subject of newspaper and magazine stories and also featured on TV.

"It made us realise that the Ballance Farm Environment Awards have become a really big thing."

He will certainly be encouraging other orchardists to enter this year's competition.

"They should enter for the sake of the industry. This competition shows that our industry stack ups pretty well in the environmental sustainability stakes, and I think it's important we demonstrate to the public that we are not cowboys when it comes to inputs like fertilisers and sprays."

Living in a lifestyle area, Mike is very conscious of the timing and quantity of sprays used. "I try to reassure neighbours that the sprays we use are non-toxic and I also want them to know that our spray and fertiliser use is carefully planned and based strictly on the monitoring of pest and fertility levels."

He says the Balance Farm Environment Awards help "get the message out there" that orchardists are serious about environmental sustainability.

"It's a great competition."

Entries for the Northland 2010 Ballance Farm Environment Awards open on 1 September 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