Advice valuable for previous environment award finalist

Nic Leary.

Having a group of people of differing expertise visit her farm to view and offer advice was extremely valuable for 2017 Horizons Ballance Farm Environment Awards finalist, Nic Leary.

Leary is in charge of Tarata Farm – a leased 500ha, 4,400 stock unit sheep and beef property west of Raetihi – run in conjunction with another family property.

“The judging panel that visited Tarata included two farmers – two different farmers in terms of the type of property they farm, where they farm and what they focused on – as well as a rural banker and a regional council land management person. Given their backgrounds it was a well-balanced critique from those four people,” she says.

“It wasn’t just about profitability or productivity but having that sustainable influence as well. The awards are an opportunity to get a well-rounded insight into what you’re doing and what you’re not doing.”

Entries are open for the 2018 Ballance Farm Environment Awards. Farmers and growers can enter online at or contact regional coordinator Stella Rackham at or 0274 197 587.

All farmers and horticulturists, including orchardists, vegetable growers and viticulturists, are eligible to enter until September 15.

First round judging will take place from 9 October with finalists announced on 15 November. After another round of judging, award winners and the overall supreme winner will be announced at a gala dinner in Palmerston North on 15 March.

Tarata is the sheep breeding unit for the nearby Leary family’s home farm, Wairiri, run by Leary’s brother Dan. Tarata’s cattle policy is flexible depending on the season and market. A physiotherapist by trade, Nic Leary has been farming since 2014. Their initial lease period for Tarata has been extended to May 2024.

The judging panel looked at a wide range of issues such as land use, stock policies, water systems, fencing of waterways, subdivision plans and planting, she says.

“It was a great opportunity for me to discuss geographically challenging areas – unstable, broken or ground prone to flooding. We had some robust discussion on the hillside about what we should be concentrating on and where to get the tools and resources to help. It provided additional insight into the land structure and soil types present in problem areas.

“It’s a lease property so the judges stayed realistic in terms of what we could do. Their feedback and comments were specific to a lease arrangement. Specific and valuable.”

“Wider than that, the awards dinner also showcases other properties and gives you a lot to aspire to. It is positive. This is important not only to our farm business but also how the greater population perceive farming. It was really good to see what we do showcased in a positive way. We’re really passionate about what we’re doing but there is so much not-so-positive press around farming. This helps remind us all we’re doing what we’re doing because we love it, we’re good at it and our land is our single biggest asset to be able to do it well.”

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