21 October 2008
The Wells family entered the 2008 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards to find out how their horticultural operation, Natural Touch Ltd, was performing when it came to environmental sustainability. They certainly weren’t expecting to come out of it with four category awards.
Managing director Duane Wells, who runs the business with his sister Bronwyn and parents Lindsay and Terrie, says the family has always strived to farm in a way that is both commercially and environmentally sustainable.
“We thought we were heading in the right direction as far as sustainability goes, but being involved in the Farm Environment Awards gave us the opportunity to benchmark ourselves against other primary producers and find out what other people thought.”
Duane says their involvement in the awards made them look at their processes and systems “from a holistic point of view”.
Entering the competition was easy and when the Wells got the call to say the judges were coming to visit, they leapt into homework mode.
“We weren’t going to just say what we thought the judges wanted to hear. We sat down and had a good think about what we were doing and how we justified these things.”
The judges were clearly impressed, awarding Natural Touch Ltd the Ballance Nutrient Management Award, the Gallagher Innovation Award and the Tawapou Coastal Natives Community and Life Award. Natural Touch was also joint winner of the Hill Laboratories Harvest Award.
The persimmon and lemon orchard was started by Lindsay and Terrie in the early 1980s. Lindsay is a former DSIR soil scientist and this helps explain why every aspect of the operation is so carefully analysed.
“For example, we don’t fertilise just for the sake of fertilising, or spray just for the sake of spraying,” says Duane.
He says his father has developed a proactive nutrient management programme that utilises frequent soil and foliar tests to determine precisely what nutrients are required and when they should be applied.
Ballance Farm Environment Award judges were also impressed by the Wells’ innovative mulching system, their meticulous recording processes and their community involvement.
Duane says the family is proud of its achievements in the awards.“We are very glad we entered. We learnt a lot and it was great to be able to rub shoulders and share ideas with Northland’s top primary producers.”
He says he would definitely encourage other horticulturists to enter the awards. “I’d say go for it. Even if you don’t win a prize, it will still be a very valuable experience.”
Entries for the 2009 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards open on October 27, 2008. For more information, contact BFEA regional coordinator Gayle Farrell, phone (09)433 1576, email firstname.lastname@example.org