Entering the Bay of Plenty Ballance Farm Environment Awards encouraged Whakatane kiwifruit growers Iain and Leanne Blackwood to “sharpen their game”.
The couple both work full time on their 7.95ha orchard, which includes 4ha of SunGold, 0.61ha of Sweet Green (G14) and 3.3ha of Hayward Green.
“We entered after talking to our neighbour’s daughter, who worked for Zespri, encouraged us to have a go,” Iain says.
The Blackwoods were still developing the golden kiwifruit when they were judged.
“The place didn’t look that flash because it was a work in progress really. But we thought we’d have a crack and try to get something worthwhile out of it. We have reasonable production but agreed the orchard could look a lot tidier. As a result of the feedback we’re going to plant some native trees on the boundaries and in areas where we can’t produce fruit to help get the bird life back in and improve the aesthetic look of the orchard. We’re also looking at planting males there so we can harvest the pollen from them.”
He says entering the awards was a worthwhile process and they will enter again in the future once they’ve worked through some of the items in their feedback report.
“The orchard will also be in far better shape with grown vines and full canopies. It was good to enter in the early stages though so we stepped back and looked at the business from the outside. Sometimes you’re so busy just producing fruit you don’t see what’s right beside you.”
All farmers and horticulturists, including orchardists, vegetable growers and viticulturists, within the geographic area covered by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council are eligible to enter until Friday 27 October 2017.
First round judging will take place from Monday 30 October through to Friday 17 November 2017 when the finalists will be decided. After another round of judging, award winners and the overall supreme winner will be announced at an award ceremony dinner on Friday February 23, 2018 at ASB Baypark Arena at Mount Maunganui, Tauranga.
National judging co-ordinator Andrea Hanna says 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 growing and will look beyond this at the wider picture,” Mrs Hanna 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.
Source: New Zealand Farm Environment Trust