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Farmers Have Plenty to Gain From Farm Environment Awards

Farmers Have Plenty to Gain From Taranaki Ballance Farm Environment Awards

Tariki farmers Robin and Jacqueline Blackwell are glad they got the opportunity to enter the inaugural Taranaki Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

The Blackwells, who run a sheep, beef and dairy grazing operation on 658ha north east of Stratford, had followed the farming competition with interest in previous years.

“We were very pleased when we heard the Awards were coming here,” says Robin.

“It was a great pleasure to enter the inaugural Taranaki competition, and we found it a very rewarding experience.”

The Blackwells were “over the moon” to win four category awards - the Beef+Lamb New Zealand Livestock Award, Hill Laboratories Harvest Award, Taranaki Regional Council Sustainability Award and the Donaghys Farm Stewardship Award.

Ballance Farm Environment Award (BFEA) judges praised their positive approach to farming, their infectious enthusiasm and their wide awareness of all areas affecting their farming operation.

The Donaghys Farm Stewardship Award recognises farmers who have created special places on the farm by protecting or enhancing areas such as wetlands, landscape features or historic places. Farmers must also demonstrate management systems that improve productivity and sustainability.

The Blackwells began fencing and planting riparian areas and erosion-prone slopes in the mid-1990s. In the past five years they have also protected two peat swamp areas. Totalling 1.5ha each, these areas have been covenanted to QEII National Trust.

BFEA judges were impressed with their commitment to the environment and their efforts to encourage biodiversity.

Robin says the BFEA endorsement of their farming operation was very welcome, and he and Jacqueline have since been farming with a renewed vigour that comes with “knowing you are on the right track”.

The Blackwells enjoyed the judging process and were impressed with the calibre of the judges.

“We really valued their post-competition feedback. They looked at our strengths and weaknesses and gave us advice on how we could improve.”

One of their immediate priorities is to covenant more native bush.

“That’s something we would have done eventually, but our involvement with the Awards has encouraged us to crack into it much sooner.”

Robin says he and Jacqueline enjoyed mingling with other entrants on awards night.

“It was a wonderfully run event and the atmosphere was excellent.”

The Blackwells want to encourage other farmers to enter the 2015 Taranaki Ballance Farm Environment Awards because it is such a positive and rewarding event to be involved with.

“It’s easy to become tunnel-visioned when you are so heavily focused on the day to day running of the farm. But this competition makes you take an in-depth look at your business and think about where you want to take it in future.”

Entries for the 2015 Taranaki Ballance Farm Environment Awards close on October 17, 2014.

Entering the competition is easy and entry forms are available online at www.bfea.org.nz

ENDS

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