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Sustainable Farming Not Just For “Greenies”

September 29, 2005

Sustainable Farming Not Just For “Greenies”

Entries have opened in most regions for the 2006 Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

It is 16 years since the awards programme was conceived, the brainchild of Waikato farmer Gordon Stephenson.

The awards are now held in eight regions throughout New Zealand. Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Wellington, Wanganui/Horowhenua, Canterbury, Otago and Southland have this year been joined by newcomer, Northland.

Principal sponsor Ballance Agri-Nutrients is joined in supporting the Farm Environment Awards by Rabobank, PPCS, Livestock Improvement Corporation, Gallagher Group Hill Laboratories and Wrightson,. The awards are also supported by Environment Waikato, Environment Bay of Plenty, the Greater Wellington Regional Council, Environment Canterbury, Otago Regional Council and the Northland Regional Council.

Gordon Stephenson says at the start of the awards, not a lot was known about good sustainable farm management.

“The concepts and criteria have been developed over time and we’ve had to learn how to be able to compare a flat peat dairy farm with a hilly high country sheep farm. What it boils down to is a way of thinking; an attitude of mind and the application of the 100 years rule. That is, to stop and think, whatever we are doing on the farm, what will happen if we carry on dong it for the next 100 years.”

He says it is important farmers develop a longer time scale to their practices than what profit they will make next year.

Mr Stephenson is very pleased to have observed sustainable farming practices becoming more mainstream.

“There was a time when anyone seen to be thinking about the environment was regarded as ‘a bloody greenie’, now you find the people who are doing all the right things are also the people at the top of the scale in terms of production and farm profits.

“The message is clear – look after your asset (the land) or suffer long term,” says Mr Stephenson who says the way people handle stress can also affect performance.

“The ones on top avoid stress on the land, on their stock, on themselves and their families.

The New Zealand Farm Environment Trust which administers the Ballance Farm Environment Awards believes the awards have matured a great deal over the past few years gaining ever widening support from environmentally aware organisations, government and regional authorities, industries, service and goods providers and of course, the people on the land.

“As the awards have grown over the past three years, the level of understanding of good environmental practices has also developed,” says Trust chairman Bill Garland.

“Education and learning have always been important objectives of the awards and each year, we’re seeing improvements in farmers’ approach to methods which protect and improve the environment.”

And each year, those people judged to be winners in the awards go on to become role models for their peers, sharing what they have learned by adopting sustainable practices in approaching their financial, ecological, social and cultural operations, Mr Garland says.

“The key to the growth and acceptance of these awards is that farmers are adopting environmentally sound ways of doing things because they have found that it works. They do it because they want to; not because they’re told to. And they do it because it’s good business.

“People who enter these awards aren’t necessarily doing everything right. They may just be starting out on the road to environmentally sustainable practice. But through the judging and feedback process; through meeting people with like ideals and maybe more experience and gaining new ideas they benefit from being involved with the Ballance Farm Environment Awards,” Mr Garland says.

“I challenge and encourage anyone who cares about the future of New Zealand’s land to become involved in the awards.”


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