27 August 2008
Entering the Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards proved to be a very positive experience for the Wilson family of Hawarden.Their North Canterbury farming operation won the Land and Life Award in 2006, with Ballance Farm Environment Award judges noting the family’s careful farming practices, strong teamwork and extensive community involvement.
Strathallan’, an 830 hectare sheep and beef unit, is managed by brothers Simon and Mark Wilson with assistance from their parents Bill and Jo, Simon’s wife Sam and Mark’s wife Helen.
“It’s a real team effort, so it’s lucky that we all get on very well,” says Simon.
While sheep and cattle have traditionally been the mainstay of the operation, cropping has become more predominant in recent years and this year the farm will grow about 70ha of wheat. The brothers also grow lucerne which is fed to their own stock.
No-tillage is used to reduce the environmental impacts of the cropping operation and the Wilsons are careful to manage the use of Nitrogen within the cropping cycle.
The farm has numerous tree plantings and the family is in the process of fencing some of the many creeks and streams that run across the property. With low sheep and cattle returns and so many waterways to fence, this could be a lengthy process. “Things don’t always happen as fast as we would like, but at least we are getting there,” says Simon.
A few years back, the brothers decided to fence off and restore a swamp on the farm and this project was a key factor in their decision to enter the 2006 Ballance Farm Environment Awards.
“We wanted to find out how we could improve and protect this area and we also wanted to find out how we were doing in terms of overall environmental sustainability.”
Preparing for judging made the brothers think hard about the long-term sustainability of their operation and during the judging sessions they were able to ‘pick the brains’ of the judges and utilise their specialist knowledge. “We learnt a lot during that process, particularly about how to manage waterways,” says Simon.
“The Farm Environment Awards definitely increased our awareness of environmental issues, but it also reassured us we were on the right track with a lot of the things we were doing.”
Simon says the opportunity to mingle with other enthusiastic and like-minded farmers during the awards evening was another highlight for him.
“It really was a very positive experience and my advice to anyone considering entering the competition would be to go for it. You won’t regret it.”
Entries for the 2009 Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards open on September 1, 2008