Top Organic Farmer Named
Central Canterbury organic farmers scooped all three places in the final of the Lincoln University Foundation/Rabobank Farmer of the Year Competition held at Lincoln University today (12 Dec.).
Winners of the Farmer of the Year title and an overseas travel scholarship valued at $7500 were Tim Chamberlain and Rose Donaghy who farm 160 hectares of BIO-GRO certified land at Lakeside, Leeston.
Second, winning a prize of $3000, were Andrew and Mirie (correct) Brooker of Aylesbury, who farm 452 hectares with 180 ha certified organic; and third, with a prize of $2000, were Peter and Joy McLeod who farm 8 hectares of BIO-GRO certified land at West Melton.
This year’s competition, the 18th in the annual series, had Organic Farming as the category and the chairman of the Lincoln University Foundation, John Nimmo, said the aim was to identify leadership in this particular farming discipline.
“And we have really achieved that objective,” he said, “with five top calibre finalists and a very high standard of applicants across the board.”
Tim Chamberlain and Rose Donaghy farm mixed cropping land near Lake Ellesmere and the couple’s interest in organics started after an overseas trip through Europe and North America in the early 1980s. They began their own “steep learning curve” in 1985 after believing it would be “relatively straight forward” to go organic.
Tim says that marketing is a vital part of farming, particularly organic farming. When they started in organics they thought that cereals and animal-based products would be their only farm outputs. They now grow a range of crops including vegetables, herbs, cereals and livestock.
The couple say it has taken time to build up the contacts and markets for their diverse range of crops and they spend a lot of time talking with their customers and prospective customers to ensure that selling opportunities keep arising. They focus very much on the local market and direct selling to consumers.
The Andrew and Mirie Brooker produce peas, linseed, wheat, barley, carrots, onions, potatoes and organic lambs.
Andrew’s father started in organics in the early 1990s with one paddock of peas for Wattie’s. Today Andrew himself he farms 180 hectares organically.
“Our philosophy is to grow what people want and are prepared to pay a premium for, rather than what they will take at a price,” says Mirie.
“In organic farming you have to be well organised and plan well ahead as there are no shortcuts or quick fixes if anything goes wrong. Weeding costs are our biggest drawback and in the case of onions and the like it can be the difference between profit and loss.
Peter and Joy McLeod produce organic chickens, nashi pears and tart cherries on their West Melton property. Peter says that from the time the chickens arrive as day-old chicks they receive “five-star treatment”. They are fed the best certified organic food available - no additives, growth promotants or cocidistats. They are kept super healthy with special mixtures of garlic, cider and “some other stuff too secret to mention”.
They are currently the only BIO-GRO certified growers of meat chickens in the South Island and they send their product from Invercargill to Wellington.
“We’re getting enquiries weekly from further afield, including export approaches,” says Peter.
He says that one of the reasons very few people are doing organic BIO-GRO free range meat chickens in New Zealand is because it is difficult.
“We have had to draw on our vast knowledge of organic systems to achieve what we have,” he says.
The other finalists were Ian Blakemore of Pleasant Point, South Canterbury, and Ian and Jenny Sloan of Wyndham.
FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT
Ian Collins, Journalist, Lincoln University, Canterbury,
Tel: (03) 3252811 ext 8549. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org