Award Considered Tribute To Late Husband
Farm Environment Award Considered Tribute To Late Husband
Jo Lucas’s role as a judge for the Wellington Ballance Farm Environment Awards takes her to many different farms and sometimes throws up ideas she can apply to her own 1400 hectare sheep and beef farming operation.
Jo and her late husband Trevor were Supreme winners of the 2005 Wellington Ballance Farm Environment Awards. They won the top award – along with a string of other award categories - for their efforts in developing 485ha “Kenmore”, near Wainuioru. When they bought the rolling to medium hill country property in the late 1980s much of it was covered in scrub. But the Lucases gradually cleared the land and planted poplars across the steeper contour to prevent erosion.
They were also quick to fence and protect areas of native bush, planting other retired areas with commercial species such as pine, Tasmanian Blackwood and macrocarpa.
Tragically, Trevor was diagnosed with cancer in 2005 and died shortly after the Wairarapa farm hosted its field day for the awards.
Jo looks back upon the award as a good recognition of all the hard work she and Trevor had put into the farm over the previous 20 years.
Despite back-to-back droughts, she has never regretted her decision to continue farming after Trevor’s death.
“I suppose I could have sold up, but I don’t think Trevor would have wanted that and it would have deprived our children of the opportunity to farm.”
Today the Lucas farming operation runs 13,000 stock units spread across three farms – Kenmore, 215ha “Longridge” and a 610ha lease block. The enterprise runs its own commercial ewe flock (with all surplus lambs finished) along with a stud flock of composite Wairere ewes. Cattle farmed include carryover cows, bulls and steers. Some of the bulls are finished, depending on the season, but most are sold store at 18-months of age. Whiteface steers are usually finished at almost two-years of age.
Jo runs the business with the help of two “very good” full-time staff. She still helps out with stockwork when required.
“When Trevor and I were running the farm together, he would do a lot of the development work while I looked after the stock. About the only thing I didn’t do was the books, so it took me a while to get used to that.”
Off-farm interests have also proved important. Jo enjoys golf, tramping, keeping in touch with her three adult offspring, and getting out and about with the Farm Environment Award judging panel.
“Some people shy away from entering the awards because they feel they might get criticised, but the judging process is not about that at all. Its all about highlighting the positive things farmers have done and offering them ideas about how they might improve in future.”
As a former competitor, Jo says she and Trevor got a lot out of the judging process. “It was great to be able to talk to the judges about where we were at (in terms of sustainability). We were also able to draw on the expertise of individual judges. For example, one of the judges was a forestry expert and he was able to give us some really good advice on which species of tree would suit a certain area.”
Jo’s advice to anyone considering entering the 2009 competition is to give it a go. At the very least it will prove a good learning experience.
The awards are open to a range of different farm and orchard types.