Sustainability stars up for environment award

Three Fonterra farming families are in the running to win the National Supreme title at the 2017 Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Run by the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust (NZFET), the awards recognise the nation’s most environmentally responsible farmers and promote sustainable on-farm management.

Fonterra farmers Peter and Nicola Carver (Taranaki), Scott and Sue Narbey (Auckland) and Jared and Sue Watson (Bay of Plenty) won the Supreme title for their respective regions. They’re up against eight other finalists to decide the National Supreme title, which will awarded at the NZFET’s National Sustainability Showcase in Invercargill on May 31.

The National Supreme winner will receive the prestigious Gordon Stephenson trophy, named in honour of the late Waikato farmer and conservationist, who first mooted the idea of a farm environment competition in 1991, as a way of recognising farmers who were trying to balance farm productivity with environmental protection.

It’s not about having the best farm or generating the highest production figures – the National Supreme title will be awarded to the regional winner who is judged to be the strongest ambassador for the promotion of sustainable farming in New Zealand.

Fonterra’s General Manager of Sustainable Dairying, Charlotte Rutherford, said “We know all our farmers do their best to take care of the environment and work hard to farm sustainably. These awards are great recognition for those who go above and beyond. The Co-op is committed to protecting New Zealand’s natural resources so it’s pleasing that an awards programme like this can help reward our farmers for all the work they do.”

James Ryan, General Manager for NZFET, said “The awards continue to attract high calibre entrants that are interested in using the programme to get independent feedback that they can use to improve their farm business. Increasingly we are working with farmers that are passionate about sustainability and the need to showcase good farming practices to their peers and a wider audience”. 

Taranaki – Peter & Nicola Carver

Operating as Holmleigh Trust Partnership, the Carvers utilise their range of flat to steep South Taranaki country by combining both dairy and dry stock farming on Holmleigh, their 515ha family property at Ohangai, east of Hawera.

With obvious consideration for the long-term viability of both their farming business and the environment, Peter and Nicola have a sheep and beef breeding and finishing unit complemented by a 95ha dairy platform, milking 260 cows at the peak of this season.

The awards judges described Holmleigh as a tidy, functional farm and highlighted excellent thinking and execution of environmental planning throughout the farm for the long-term sustainability of the land. They said it was an impressive system giving huge flexibility while helping to ensure a sustainable business.

Auckland – Scott & Sue Narbey

Fourth generation dairy farmers Scott and Sue Narbey have a 155ha milking platform for their 410-cow operation on Mangakura Road, just south of Helensville.

The awards judges said the couple’s family farming operation was intensive but still felt “simple and logical” with the placement and design of infrastructure giving the farm a feel of no clutter and easy flow.

Scott and Sue’s children Bella, 6, and Ollie, 5, are the fifth generation of Narbeys to live on the property, which was cleared from bush to milk cows, by Scott’s great grandfather.

The award judges said “the history of the farm and importance of this to the future shows through in everything they do. Decisions made always keep in mind to keep the family farm together and a place for the family.”

Bay of Plenty – Jared & Sue Watson

Sue and Jared milk 282 cows once-a-day on a 120ha platform in the Waiotahe Valley.

The judges said the couple work to each other’s strengths with Jared’s on-farm skill with livestock, pastures and stewardship and accountant Sue’s analytical abilities. They said the Watsons show enthusiasm and passion for all aspects of their business including sustainable dairying and “doing the right thing” by the environment.

A change to once-a-day milking this season has renewed Jared and Sue’s energy for dairying and also gives them more time to focus on the environment, continuing the tradition of planting trees begun by Jared’s great grandfather.

The change of farming practice had reduced costs and resulted in healthier, happier humans as well as cows, said the judges.