Top farmers recognised by 2015 Ballance Farm Environment Awards

The 2015 Ballance Farm Environment Awards has produced an exceptional line-up of supreme winners.

Award ceremonies in the 10 regions participating in the annual competition have been completed and supreme winners from each region will now contest the highly prized national winner title.

Simon Saunders, chairman of the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust (NZFE), says the calibre of entrants in this year’s competition was again very high, making it tough for judges to select the finalists let alone the Supreme Winners.

“I’ve been lucky enough to get to most of the award ceremonies and what I’ve seen there has amazed me. Every entrant has a good story to tell and it’s incredible how much work is being done to improve sustainability on the farm. Much of this work is unheralded, so it’s good to see these hard-working people get recognition for what they are doing.”

Saunders says the 2015 Awards attracted a diverse range of entries, with sheep and beef, dairy and horticultural operations all represented among the Supreme Winners.

The competition also attracted a number of first-time entrants who were eager to learn more about environmental sustainability. 

“Some regions had a pretty tough year due to drought, but it was very pleasing to see that farmers were still willing to enter the competition and show what they were doing to improve sustainability and profitability.” 

Bay of Plenty was the first region to announce its winners, with Rotorua sheep and beef farmers John and Catherine Ford taking out the supreme title. Pakotai dairy farmers Rachel and Greig Alexander were named supreme winners for the Northland region and Eltham dairy farmers Mark and Jacqui Muller and their manager Conrad Maeke won the top award for Taranaki.

Central Hawke’s Bay sheep and beef farmers Alastair and Tracy Ormond and Alastair’s son Daniel were supreme winners of the East Coast Ballance Farm Environment Awards and Wairarapa dairy farmers Leo and Rebecca Vollebregt won the Greater Wellington Awards.

The supreme title for Horizons went to Willie Akers and Laura Oughton and Hugh and Judy Akers of Broadlands Station. Omarama high-country farmers Richard and Annabelle Subtil won the Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Table Hill farmers Dave and Janene Divers were Otago’s supreme winners, and Te Anau sheep and dairy farmers Robert and Anna Kempthorne took out the Southland title.

Last but not least was the Waikato region, where the supreme award went to Matamata horticulturists Frans and Tineke de Jong, their son Talbert de Jong and his partner Emily Meese.

These supreme winners will be honoured at NZFE’s National Showcase in Wellington on 24 June. The national winner will be announced at this event, receiving the prestigious Gordon Stephenson trophy.

Supreme winners also host field days on their properties.

“I’d urge all farmers to get along to these field days because they are both educational and inspirational,” says Saunders.

He says detailed information on each Supreme winner is available on the NZFE website, where the ‘Great farming stories’ link offers an extensive choice of ‘Sustainability in action’, video presentations and written reports.

Saunders says the website contains a wealth of information on agricultural sustainability and is an excellent resource for anyone considering entering the Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Entries for the 2016 competition open on 1 August.

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