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Award entrants provide pathway to sustainability

With more environmental constraints being placed around farming, the timing has never been better to showcase those setting new standards with practices to keep New Zealand farming the most sustainable in the world.

This month those farmers and growers have the opportunity to show their peers, industry and communities what they are achieving, by entering the Ballance Farm Environment awards.

James Ryan, general manager for the event organisers New Zealand Farm Environment Trust says the long running award series has not only encouraged farmers and growers to step up and be proud about what they are doing to preserve their land. It has also helped industry set new standards that other farmers can learn from, and employ on their own land.

“Many of these people are quite humble, they simply get on with the job and don’t tend to show off what they are doing. That is why this year for the first time we are encouraging others to nominate a grower or farmer they know who is doing an exceptional job, who is less than likely to put themselves forward,” says Ryan.

Because people and the land are so closely linked in the primary sector, the awards have also benefitted from having Bayleys sponsoring a regional “People Award”. This recognises those award participants who have done an exceptional job taking their staff members with them on their sustainability journey.

Bayleys national country manager Duncan Ross says the need has never been greater to engage people both on and off the land in New Zealand’s sustainability story, and the award sponsorship made perfect sense.

The sponsorship to celebrate the people behind the land comes at a time when he says many in the sector are intent on keeping their heads down, uncertain about the full implications of regulations around environment and green-house gas impacts.

“Many people in the primary sector feel they are often under a lot of scrutiny for things like environmental management, often with negative connotations.

“Yet the awards highlight the energy and efforts these innovative, leading growers and farmers are putting in, and the fact they recognise no business is complete without people who share that vision – it is a wonderful fit for Bayleys and our link to the land,” says Ross.

James Ryan says sponsorship of the People award has helped draw out some of the personalities and characters within the award entrants, and the invariably interesting, enlightening stories they have to share about farming sustainably and inspiring staff, contractors and managers to share the vision.

“And given farms and orchards have all on average grown larger in the past decade, the need to recognise great “people people” has never been more vital.”

The competition covers 11 regions throughout New Zealand, with regional winners in each then going forward to a national final.

Ryan says while recognising excellence in sustainable land management, the awards also provide an invaluable advisory source for entrants.

“Every entrant will receive a visit from the award judges, and the judging group includes advisors and at least one farmer within it.

“It is a great educational opportunity and chance to get some very constructive, useful feedback. For some it is also an opportunity to have a set of independent but experienced eyes provide another perspective.”

The variety of land uses now included in the awards attest to the diversity of New Zealand’s farming landscape, with past winners including dairy farmers, kiwifruit growers, glass house growers and dry stock farmers alike all claiming top spots in past years’ awards.

“We are confident this year’s entrants will continue to highlight this variety. The need for leadership and inspiration the awards provide has never been greater in the primary sector as farmers and growers grapple with issues of green-house gases and nutrient footprints, the people entering these awards help provide a pathway to dealing with those challenges,” says James Ryan.

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