Organisers of the prestigious Ballance Farm Environment Awards are encouraging farmers and growers to consider entering the 2018 awards.
Entry is now open for the awards organised by the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust to promote land stewardship by showcasing sustainable farming.
NZFE trust national judging co-ordinator Andrea Hanna says all farmers and horticulturists, including orchardists, vegetable growers and viticulturists, are eligible to enter.
The awards operate within 11 regions, following regional council boundaries, each with their own judging timetable. Winners are announced at awards dinners in early 2018.
Supreme winners of the 2017 Bay of Plenty Ballance Farm Environment Awards are Jared and Sue Watson milk 282 dairy cows in the Waiotahe Valley near Whakatane, which is prone to frequent flooding.
The Watsons also won the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award, LIC Dairy Farm Award and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council Environment Award 2.
Overwhelmed at taking the supreme title, Jared says neither he nor Sue expected to win when they entered.
“Taking part in the awards has been a great journey. The judging process was a chance to look at our farm through other people's eyes and question what we are doing and how we do things.
“You start to look at the little things and the beautiful things and how you can enhance them. It's about perception, especially from the front gate, working on beautifying things, to create a beautiful space – we (farmers) have got to change how people perceive us.”
Andrea says most people participate because they want high quality feedback from independent rural professionals which they can use to improve their business.
“It's not just targeted at top farmers. Every farmer should take the opportunity to enter.”
The awards prove good farming practices and sound business management go hand in hand. Farmers who participate in the awards programme are also encouraged to share ideas and innovations with the wider farming community.
Entering the Awards takes about two minutes by completing a simple form, available online at www.bfea.org.nz
It costs nothing to enter and the awards programme offers excellent educational opportunities for any farmer and grower who is interested in improving the sustainability of their farming business including key social, economic and environmental outcomes.
The judging teams have a wide range of skills and look at all parts of the farming business. Judging is conducted in a relaxed and friendly manner and climatic factors are taken into account.
“In the past we've found farmers can be reluctant to enter if their farm has been affected by wet weather or drought. But the judges know severe climatic events are part of farming and will look beyond this at the wider picture,” Andrea says.
Providing the entrant agrees to be involved, people are able to nominate another farming or growing business they feel is worthy or may be interested in the awards programme.
“Many past entrants say their involvement has helped their personal development because they get to meet and be inspired by a range of like-minded people.”