Meeting other entrants and finding out about the great work everyone else was doing were highlights of the Ballance Farm Environment Awards for Waikato finalists Peter and Karen West.
“It was interesting to see what everyone else had been doing off their own bat – most of it common sense stuff for the future of their farms,” Peter says.
“We also got good feedback about what we’re doing and ways we can improve ourselves.”
The Wests, who won the region’s LIC Dairy Award, milk 409 cows on 144ha (effective) on the edge of the Hauraki Plains west of Ngatea. The couple started 50:50 sharemilking in 1985 and three years later bought the first 35ha of what is now the 109ha farm they own. The balance of the farm is leased.
Entries are open for the 2018 Ballance Farm Environment Awards. Farmers and growers can enter online or contact regional coordinator Liz Stolwyk on firstname.lastname@example.org or 027 571 6206.
All farmers and horticulturists, including orchardists, vegetable growers and viticulturists, are eligible to enter until November 01 2017.
As first-time Ballance Farm Environment Awards entrants, Peter says they wanted to be proactive and better prepared.
“There’s a big truck coming and we can sit in the middle of the road and wait for it to run us over or we can be proactive and put something in place to protect ourselves from it,” Peter says.
“It’s not a scary truck – we just like to stay ahead of things. We don’t want to get caught by regulations and end up on the back foot. The message is to be aware of what’s happening and how things can affect you, your farm and your area. That’s where the awards were good. We met some really cool people and gathered some good ideas.”
The Wests have been busy since the awards dinner in March.
They have had a riparian management plan done by DairyNZ, talked to regional council staff and become involved with the Piako-Waihou Engagement Group, a group of about 20 farmers who want to be better informed on issues in their area. The Wests also won a dairy farm business of the year title and Peter has set up a Facebook blog called Peter West – Strong Heart of a Man.
“It’s just my feelings and thoughts. I also wanted to publicise the good stuff that was happening on farms and about Gordon Stephenson and why he started the environment awards. I did not know the vision he had and want to educate a few more farmers about him and his vision.
“We have to support this and carry it forward. It’s an awesome vehicle to publicly recognise good farmers doing good work but also making connections with town people. Farmers need to step up and tell their story.”
He says their farm is at the “what’s next” stage of development and the networking and personal growth as a result of the Awards has come at the right time.
“There’s all this environment stuff coming up and we have an interest in how we can do things better, how we can be more sustainable on our block of land and how we can make a difference. Not just that, but to tell our good stories. There are so many good stories out there we have to put our hand up and say look at what we’re doing. The awards showcase what’s possible. We’ll have another go in the future when we’ve implemented some of the things highlighted in our feedback report.”
Source: New Zealand Farm Environment Trust