Competition Real Eye Opener For Manawatu Farmer
Farm Environment Competition Real Eye Opener For Manawatu Farmer
Ian Easton’s involvement with the Ballance Farm Environment Awards as both an entrant and a judge helped him clarify his goals for the long term sustainability of his Manawatu farm.
Ian, wife Gayle and son Jason run a mixed cropping operation on 340ha of flat land between Shannon and Foxton. Their business finishes bought-in cattle and lambs and grows a diverse range of crops, including potatoes, onions, maize silage and broccoli.
In 2005 the Eastons won the Hill Laboratories Harvest Award and were also named as finalists in the Horizons Ballance Farm Environment Awards for that year.
Judges were impressed with the level of accountability and traceability the Eastons used in their cropping operation. Soils and crops are monitored closely, with detailed records kept.
Ian was then involved as a judge for the Awards the following year. “We were thrilled to win the Harvest Award and make the finals. I learnt a lot from the experience and as a judge I got to see some unbelievable farms and meet some very dedicated farmers.”
Since winning the award Ian has continued to improve his farming system. He has achieved Euro Gap certification for all the crops he grows, believing this type of certification will eventually become mandatory.
“As farmers we have to be accountable for what we produce, so the traceability work we are doing now will certainly pay off one day.”
Rising costs, wet winters, and increased competition for land from dairy farmers has put pressure on farming businesses like the Eastons. So they have diversified into lamb finishing and specialist vegetable crops in order to remain viable.
“We are constantly looking for new ways to create more income”, says Ian.
Ian says being involved with a competition like the Ballance Farm Environment Awards proved invaluable for this “because it forces you to take a good look at the way you operate”.
He remains a keen supporter of the Awards and plans to encourage his son to enter in future.
“It’s a great concept and I’d certainly like to see more people entering. It should almost be compulsory because the judging process opens up your eyes to ways you could do things better.”
Entries for the 2009 Horizons Ballance Farm Environment Awards opened on October 1, 2008.