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Southland Farmers Urged To Enter Awards

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Southland Farmers Urged To Enter Environmental Awards

Southland’s new judging coordinator for the Ballance Farm Environment Awards says farmers who enter the competition will find it a highly rewarding experience.

Entries for the Southland awards opened on November 1 and close on Jan 15, 2007.

Judging coordinator Simon Saunders, a past entrant himself, says the awards are a great showcase for good environmental management.

“This is a subject of hot debate at present, and farmers have to show leadership in this area if we don’t want to have regulations imposed on us in future.”

Simon manages Stag Valley - a family-owned sheep, beef and forestry farm near Castlerock in Northern Southland. He took over the judging coordinator’s job from Chris Smith, AgResearch, who was recently elected to the board of the NZ Farm Environment Award Trust.

Stag Valley was entered in the 2004 Ballance Farm Environment Awards and won the nutrient management category and the harvest award.

“The main reason we entered the awards was because we wanted to benchmark ourselves against others and find out how we could improve our environmental sustainability,” says Simon.

He says the judging process was relaxed but very educational. “It confirmed that we were doing some things right, but it also showed us that we had a lot more to learn and achieve on the farm in the future. It’s a long-term, ongoing process.”

He believes the competition’s key strength is its ‘whole farm approach’.

“The judges aren’t just looking at one single facet of the farming operation, they are looking at a number of factors that include production, nutrient and waste management, water quality, succession planning and community involvement.

“Production is obviously a crucial part of farm sustainability and we often find that the past winners are also the top producers. But that doesn’t mean you have to be a top farmer to enter. Many farmers are doing very well in one or two areas and their involvement in the awards gives them valuable ideas on ways to improve in others.”

For many entrants the awards also represent an opportunity to achieve some recognition for work that would otherwise go unnoticed. “Some farmers have been working on environmental protection for decades but they don’t fully appreciate what they have achieved until someone else looks at it.”

And the awards provide a great chance for farming families to meet, discuss common goals and most importantly, “have fun”.

As well as winning some great prizes, the Supreme regional winner will get to represent Southland at a National Showcase next year.

Simon says regional winners are held up as leaders in the field of environmental sustainability and become role models for other farmers to follow.

He says entering the awards is a very simple process because much of the information is collected by the judges when they call to discuss a visit.

The awards are sponsored by Ballance Agri-Nutrients, PPCS, PGG Wrightson, LIC, Hill Laboratories and the Gallagher Group.
Farmers wishing to enter should contact Sue Clarke, BFEA regional coordinator, phone (03) 214 4613, mobile 0274 89 35 71, or email southland@bfea.org.nz


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