The finalists in this year’s Bay of Plenty Ballance Farm Environment Awards each have a different and compelling reason for the approach they have taken to their farming or orcharding business, says awards judging co-ordinator Margaret Wright.
“Each of the five finalists have faced a challenge or a life changing experience which has driven them in a new direction,” says Margaret.
In the case of the owners of Gold Nugget Orchard, it was the devastating impact of the disease Psa-V on their gold kiwifruit vines. For Mark and Catriona White, organic kiwifruit growers of Opotiki, it was a desire to leave the city in search of a better lifestyle for their young children.
Barbara and Wilson McGillivray, of Katikati, were experienced kiwifruit growers who, in 2011, took on the new challenge of avocado orcharding.
David and Julie Hayes of Buzz Apiaries Ltd, Katikati have encouraged their sons River and Corban, together with Lochie Hart and Blair Cooney, to take over the hands-on running of their beekeeping business to give the young men a pathway to a sound business future and work-life-balance.
Carol and David Hodge, sheep and beef farmers of Pikowai, have each taken responsibility for half of their farm, running the blocks in tandem while giving Carol the chance to realise her environmental vision to implement riparian plantings and erosion control initiatives.
Buzz Apiaries Ltd is also the first beekeeping business to enter the Bay of Plenty Awards, and Margaret hopes they might begin a trend. “To be successful, beekeepers must take care of the environment in which their bees work and it’s great to have this industry represented alongside farming and orcharding.”
Another feature of this year’s entries is that the owners of Buzz Apiaries and Gold Nugget Orchard each represent a second generation to take part in the awards.
“It’s great to see the next generation taking part in the awards, and continuing the environmental traditions begun by their parents,” says Margaret.
Gold Nugget Orchard is owned by Gavin and Linda Dyer and Stephen and Lynette Dyer. Stephen and Gavin’s parents Mavis and Graham Dyer won the Bay of Plenty supreme environment award for their kiwifruit orchard in 2011. In 2003 David and Julie Hayes, now of Buzz Apiaries, won three category awards in the inaugural Bay of Plenty Ballance Farm Environment Awards for the kiwifruit orchards they own.
“In terms of how they have arrived at where there are now, and where they will go in the future, these five finalists all demonstrate excellence in good farm practices which promote sustainable land management,” says Margaret, who is stepping down as judging co-ordinator after six years in the role.
Chairperson of the Bay of Plenty Farm Environment Awards Trust, Jim Hitchcock, says Margaret’s contribution to the awards has been immense. “She is probably one of the most senior environmental awards judges in the country,” says Jim.
“She has a relaxed, but no-nonsense approach to judging and her extensive knowledge of farming brings value to the awards and to those who enter.
“During this round of judging, Margaret has generously mentored Jo Carr, who will be the new judging co-ordinator. Jo brings to the role a fresh perspective, including experience with environment and water quality issues in the Rotorua lakes catchment where she farms.”
Margaret and husband David own two dairy farms, and are previous winners in the farm environment awards. Margaret is hands-on at the home farm at Manawahe, which milks 460 cows, and oversees the operations of the 185-cow farm at on the Rangitaiki Plains near Edgecumbe, while David works off farm.
“It’s been a real privilege to be part of the judging panel, meeting so many inspirational farmers and orchardists,” says Margaret.
“I’ve learnt so much and put into practice some the things I’ve seen entrants do. No matter what industry you are in, you can learn from each other and use that knowledge to improve your own operation.”
While she will no longer co-ordinate judging, Margaret would like to remain involved with the awards and also hopes to give time to the Rural Support Trust.
The winner of the 2018 Bay of Plenty Ballance Farm Environment Awards will be announced at a gala dinner on February 23 at ASB Baypark Arena, Mt Maunganui. Tickets cost $75 (incl GST) per person, and can be purchased on-line at: www.nzfeatrust.org.nz/