Judging of the Regional Supreme Award winners from the Ballance Farm Environment Awards has commenced, with four sheep and beef farms amongst those vying for the top award.
Each of the 11 regional winners are visited by representatives of the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust (NZFEA), a charity set up to promote sustainable farming and growing.
Jamie Strang, one of the on-farm judges for the Trust, explains the purpose of the visits is to provide insights which are later explored in a formal interview. “The farm visits are a great opportunity to examine some of our award winners practices first-hand and to understand how they are striving to manage the land more sustainably.”
Following the farm visits, the regional winners assemble in Wellington in June where they are interviewed by a panel comprising Dianne Kidd, former recipient of the Gordon Stephenson Trophy, Julia Jones, KPMG farm enterprise specialist, Warwick Catto, Ballance Agri-Nutrients science strategy manager and on-farm judge, George Murdoch, Rabobank regional manager and Jamie Strang farmer and on-farm judge.
The annual awards cycle culminates with a function, the National Sustainability Showcase, at Te Papa on 7 June where one of the regional winners will be awarded the esteemed Gordon Stephenson Trophy – named in honour of Waikato farmer and noted conservationist, the late Gordon Stephenson. The recipients of the trophy will also undertake an overseas study tour funded by the Trust.
Joanne van Polanen, chair of the NZFEA, explains that, “Gordon felt that the awards were a way to recognise farmers who were trying to balance farm productivity with environmental stewardship. It was Gordon’s view that award recipients would be held up as ambassadors for sustainable farming rather than necessarily having the most productive or profitable rural business”.
Van Polanen balances her role as chair of the Trust while farming with her family in Mid-Canterbury.“The National Sustainability Showcase is a great opportunity to celebrate award-winning farmers and growers and to highlight some of the great examples of farming and high-quality food production happening throughout the country,” she says.
Joanne believes the judging panel has a tough task selecting the recipient of the Gordon Stephenson Trophy from an outstanding line-up of regional supreme winners. These include four red meat operations: sheep farmers – the Wallace family from Otago and Richard and Becks Tosswill from Wairarapa; sheep and beef farmers the Dill family from Auckland; and Charolais beef producers Craig and Greta Harman from Northland.
The remainder of the regional winners are dairy operations – Rod and Sandra McKinnon from Waikato, Gibbs family from Taranaki, Andrea Barry and Craig Pennell from Hawke’s Bay, Andrew Hardie and Helen Long from Manawatu, David and Brenda Hislop from Canterbury, and Ryan and Abby Moseby from Southland – aside from Mark and Catriona White from Bay of Plenty, who grow kiwifruit.