Beef farmers Harmans win Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards

Greta and Craig Harman, 2018 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Award
Greta and Craig Harman, 2018 BFEA winners for Northland.

Whananaki beef farmers Greta and Craig Harman have won the Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

The awards were held at the Copthorne Hotel and Resort Bay of Islands at Paihia, on Wednesday night (21 March). The judges said both the Harmans’ coastal hill properties, home to Whananaki Coastal Charolais, were a showplace of biosecurity and biodiversity management that combine cattle farming, bull breeding and community involvement. They said Greta and Craig have a passion for their stock, the land they farm and for the natural environments that exist within it.

“They show how farming and environmental stewardship can work hand in hand to protect and enhance natural biodiversity while maintaining a productive asset. The Harmans have completed an extraordinary amount of environmental protection work on the property, not because they had to, but because it was the ‘right thing to do’.”

The Harmans have two properties totalling 455ha (400ha effective grazing). Thirteen per cent of the land is fenced native bush and four per cent is protected wetlands. Whananaki Charolais is situated near numerous coastal holiday homes, camping grounds and beaches and balances public access to sites of biodiversity, scenic and historic importance against the needs for biosecurity, animal welfare and health and safety. They have done this with success over many years of close community involvement.

The farm has hosted many Whangarei Pony Club events, school camps, walking groups, horse treks and volunteer planting days. Local school children also monitor the health of the estuary and help to plant bushes and trees on the farms through the Northland Regional Council’s Enviroschools programme.

Greta Harman’s family began farming in the district 50 years ago, founding the Charolais stud soon after and the home farm has since been expanded and a second farm added. Land use and development has come full circle in that time, from clearing scrub and weeds to open up pasture to closing gullies and wetlands to promote native regrowth.

The Harmans say their focus on sustainability is foremost with every management decision. Farming methods are well-researched and considered before implementation, continually striving for best practice,” they say.

Weed and pest management are priorities, along with minimum soil disturbance to improve water quality flowing into the Whananaki inlet. Greta heads the local community Landcare group, one of more than 60 groups linked to the Kiwi Coast project, aimed at creating a safe corridor for Kiwi on Northland’s East Coast from the Brynderwyns to the Karikari Peninsula. Pateke (brown teal) have been protected and encouraged so Whananaki is now the strongest Pateke breeding ground on the mainland. Kiwi and bittern projects are also underway.

The Harmans have 100 registered Charolais cows plus replacements, 70 R1 and R2 bulls being reared for sale, a small purebred Angus cow herd and around 260 commercial crossbred cattle – cows, heifers, steers and bulls.Water is reticulated to all paddocks for cattle, along with shade where possible, and fencing is nearly complete for all waterways and wetlands.

The judges said the Harmans were aware of the characteristics of the various soil types on the farms and have developed management systems which will avoid the risk of pugging and soil erosion while optimising production.

Nutrient budgeting has showed a low loss of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to water because of the timing and strategic use of nitrogen fertiliser and phosphate in the form of reactive rock. Wetlands and buffer zones have helped filter much of the modelled losses. Because of the proximity to population, fertiliser slurries are applied by helicopter and a tow-behind sprayer. As well as the regional supreme award, the Harmans won the Northland Regional Council Water Quality Enhancement Award and the Predator Free Farm Award.

Kawakawa beef and forestry farmers Geff, Dinah and Kaleb Cookson won the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award and the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Award. Ruakaka dairy farmers Bruce and Julie Paton won the CB Norwood Distributors Ltd Agri-Business Management Award and the WaterForce Integrated Management Award. The DairyNZ Sustainability and Stewardship Award was won by Andrew and Vicky Booth from Titoki and the Hill Laboratories Agri-Science Award and Massey University Innovation Award were won by Daniel Lloyd and Tina Winder from Landcorp’s Takakuri Station.

The Harmans will host a field day on their Whananaki property on Thursday 10 May.

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