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Ballance Farm Environment Awards Reward Land Stewardship

Outstanding Land Stewardship Rewarded In Horizons Ballance Farm Environment Awards

Rangitikei farmers Justin and Mary Vennell have been named Supreme winners of the 2014 Horizons Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

At a special Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) ceremony on March 13 the Vennells also collected the WaterForce Integrated Management Award and the Horizons Regional Council Award (for the integration of trees).

Justin and Mary run Richcrest Farming Limited – a sheep, beef and forestry operation in the Rewa district, north of Feilding. Their 489ha (380ha effective) family property carries 4500 sheep and beef stock units, with about 80ha in forestry.

BFEA judges said both partners were “in tune with the needs of the farm”, praising the Vennells’ passion for farming and their genuine willingness to perform environmental protection work, even when finance was limited.

They were impressed with the couple’s management of the operation and the good levels of production being achieved.

Judges also noted the “strong conservation ethic’ demonstrated on the fifth generation farm, and the “excellent overall balance of production, biodiversity, sustainability and water quality protection”.

Richmond, the original block, was settled by the Vennell family in 1898. Justin and Mary, who have three children, purchased the neighbouring farm in the mid-1990s, farming the two blocks in partnership with Justin’s parents, Phil and Oriel, until their retirement in 2005.

Since adopting Horizons Regional Council’s ‘Sustainable Land Use Initiative’ (SLUI) Plan in 2007, the Vennells have planted 57,000 trees.

BFEA judges said the “astute use” of a range of trees aids erosion control, production, shade, shelter, aesthetics and bird and bee fodder. They also commended the Vennells’ awareness of the quality of water leaving their farm.

Farm springs have been tapped to provide an extremely reliable water system for supply to troughs, mostly via gravity-feed, and helicopter cropping has been used to improve pasture quality and increase stock production.

A BFEA field day will be held on the Supreme-award winning farm, with the date to be advised.

Winners in the 2014 Horizons Ballance Farm Environment Awards were:

• Supreme award, WaterForce Integrated Management Award and The Horizons Regional Council Award For The Integration Of Trees; Justin and Mary Vennell, Richcrest, Hunterville.
• Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award and LIC Dairy Farm Award; Matt Johnson, Tongariro Farm, Moutoa, Landcorp Farming Limited, Foxton.
• Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Farm Award, PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award and Meridian Energy Excellence Award; Mark Chrystall, Richard Chrystall and Rob Collier, Taihape.
• Hill Laboratories Harvest Award and Massey University Innovation Award; Guy Melville, Kaiangaroa Pastoral, Taihape.
• Donaghys Farm Stewardship Award; Hugh McIntyre and Rick and Rachel Pettigrew, Makoura Lodge, Apiti.
• The Margaret Matthews Trophy for Commitment to Sustainability; Lisa Hicks, PA Lowe Estate, Palmerston North.

For more information on the Ballance Farm Environment Awards visit


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