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Family Sheep And Beef Farm Takes Top Regional Spot At Taranaki Ballance Farm Environment Awards

A long-term commitment to environmental stewardship has earned Rukumoana Farms the top spot at Taranaki’s Ballance Farm Environment Awards, run by the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust.

The awards champion sustainable farming and growing through a programme which sees one Regional Supreme Winner selected from each of the 11 regions involved. As a Regional Supreme Winner, Rukumoana Farms is now in the running for the Gordon Stephenson Trophy, with the winner of this national award to be announced at a later date.

Rukumoana Farms is run by the Brown family – Robert, Jane, Nick, Sophie, Will, Kate and Sam. Thiscohesive family unitissuccessfully driving this farm that has significantlygrownduring the 34 yearsthatRobertand Jane have been involved.

The judges said the family demonstrates a genuine passion for their farm and industry.

“This impressive family operation plays to the strengths of all family members. There’s also an excellent ability to spread risk while managing cashflow.”

The familywantsto leave a positive legacy, striving hard to producequality stock while improving the farm’senvironmental footprint. To help offset greenhouse gas emissions, 32ha of trees were planted under the Afforestation Grant Scheme in 2011, plus 12ha of bush retired. Three wetland areas have been fenced off and numerous native plants put in,whilepoplar poles are used for erosion control and shade, and predatorsareactively managed.

A direct drill is used to plant fattening crops – a no-tillage approach that helps conserve the soil.

The positive stance of theBallance Farm Environment Awardsattracted the family to enter, along with it being a chance toacknowledgethe hard work that has gone into the farm by both past and present generations. Watch their video on YouTube.

As well as receiving this year’s Supreme Regional Award, they also received the:

  • Bayleys People in Primary Sector Award
  • Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Farm Award
  • Norwood Agri-Business Management Award
  • Synlait Climate Stewardship Award
  • WaterForce Wise with Water Award
  • Taranaki Regional Council Sustainability Award

Each year, the Ballance Farm Environment Awards offer unique, pan-sector opportunities for the sharing of ideas and information among grower peers, agribusiness professionals and the wider community.

Other 2020 Award Winners


Ron, Noel and Karl Stanley, Stanley Brothers Trust

There’s been a big investment in future-proofing at this Opunake property, with the Stanley brothers embracing new technologies to drive productivity and animal welfare.

While pork production is the farm’s main business, it is bolstered by two additional income streams – beef fattening and cropping.

The Stanleys have owned the farm for about 70 years and, during that time, have significantly grown and developed the business. They have established sustainable systems to set the property up for the next generation and their willingness to implement new technology is paying off.

Protecting and caring for the natural environment is a priority as the brothers strive to ensure products of the highest quality leave the gate.

Verna & Robert Bourke, Conna & Nick Smith, Fern Flats

The Bourkes have a strong connection to Fern Flats – a property that has been in the family since 1873 – and the resulting sense of stewardship is obvious.

Now operated under a family trust, the property has grown in size since Robert and wife Verna took over and combined two smaller properties into the modern farm of today.

With the help of 50:50 sharemilkers – daughter Conna Smith and her husband Nick – new systems have been embraced and there’s a focus on reducing the environmental footprint of this low-input farm that breeds highly productive cows.

Significant plantings are encouraging bird life to flourish at this beautifully kept farm that continually moves with the times to ensure it remains viable into the future.

Steve Lepper, Lepper Trust

Innovation and efficiency are the cornerstones of this pig farming operation which boasts a pioneering biogas system that converts methane into electricity and heat – significantly reducing emissions.

The farrow-to-finish pig farming operation runs 400 sows, producing quality fresh pork for the New Zealand market. It uses an environmentally friendly production system and is accredited by an on-farm animal welfare assurance programme. There’s a strong focus on biosecurity and water quality, while innovative approaches have resulted in zero waste.

The first of its kind in New Zealand, the biogas system has reduced methane emissions by 70%. It captures methane from the farm’s effluent ponds, converting the gas into electricity.

Meanwhile, heat from the engine warms water used for underfloor heating.

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