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Ballance Farm Environment Awards

Paterson Family Photo, Image supplied by New Zealand Farm Environment Trust

Entering the Ballance Farm Environment Awards was a positive experience from start to finish for Otago finalist Simon Paterson.

Simon, his wife Sarah and parents Allan and Eris from the Armidale Merino Stud in the Maniototo were finalists in 2017’s Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards and won the WaterForce Integrated Management Award and the Massey University Innovation Award.

Entries are open for the 2018 awards.

Otago entries close on October 31 2017. First round judging will take place between November 13 2017 – December 8 2017 with finalists judged late January 2018/early February 2018. Winners will be announced at an awards dinner at Lake Wanaka Centre, Wanaka, on April 13 2017.

The Patersons operate their sheep stud, commercial sheep and trading cattle business over two flat to rolling blocks and two hill country summer runs totalling 2050ha in the Gimmerburn district, west of Ranfurly.

Simon says the biggest reason the family entered the 2017 awards was positive peer pressure.

“It’s one of those things, we were always going to have a go but always kept putting it off. We would say we wanted to wait until we’d finished this or that, there was always something else coming along,” Simon says.

“After some encouragement, we made the decision to do it and talked to other people who had entered in the past. No-one who has been through the process ever says a bad word about it.

“We’re always trying to improve different places. We were putting in new pivot irrigation when we entered. We’re never sitting still so it would have been something else next time. The time was right.”

He says the judging visits were a highlight.

“I was impressed with the calibre of the judges that came here. The biggest thing for me was the general discussion with them on the day driving around talking about different things. A lot of them weren’t familiar with specific merino operation but there were so many other little things. One of the judges was an agronomist so we were talking about different pasture species to use, for example. It was a fresh perspective on the farm. Different eyes. Having someone new critique your business.”

He says the judging was well weighted – environmental versus farm sustainability.

“A big thing for us is trying to make sure things are here for future generations. It’s not about making a profit for a couple of years. It’s the long term viability of the farm business so we have an asset for our children in the future.”

He says the judging and the feedback report reinforced their thinking and their future plans.

“It’s a work in progress for our generation. We will look at having another crack in the future to make sure we’re making progress.”

Even the awards dinner was great, he says.

“We had a really good table and the evening was fantastic. We have an association on the farm with a lot of the sponsors too so that was a bonus. It just opened our eyes to what other people are doing and I even discovered a good friend from Lincoln was another entrant. We really enjoyed it. It was so much more than just a function – it was time off the farm celebrating the achievements of our industry.”

Gimmerburn is summer-dry country with long cold winters and the Patersons know it well – the family has been farming on the original block since 1883.

Allan started farming Armidale in 1975, Simon started in 2005 and the current family partnership structure has been in place since 2007. Simon and Sarah have two sons, Hugo, 5, and Bede, 3. Sarah is involved with the considerable financial and administration workload – Armidale Stud sells around 180 rams a year – and the family credits Eris with establishing the impressive network of shade, shelter and aesthetic plantings on the property.

The 7500-8000 stock units wintered are mostly merinos including 1000 stud ewes. Armidale breeds fine to medium wool targeting use in the active outdoors market.

Ryecorn is the main winter crop and is used in rotation during pasture renewal.

There is RotoRainer irrigation covering 80ha and in September 2017 two centre pivots covering 64ha were installed, improving a formerly border-dyke area.

Source: New Zealand Farm Environment Trust

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