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Enviro awards chance to shine

Entries open on August 1 for the Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) and Gisborne farmers and growers have been encouraged to enter the competition — “We need you” is the word from East Coast chairman Steve Wyn-Harris.

The 2020 awards dinner will be held in Gisborne in early March.

“There has been a lot of discussion about the need for the primary sector to tell its stories,” Mr Wyn-Harris said.

“Here’s the perfect opportunity for farmers and growers to share their positive actions with their local community and a wider audience.

“If you are frustrated by the negative sentiment coming from urban areas, if you want to change that, you have to help us tell these stories. We need you,” he said.

All farmers and growers, including orchardists, vegetable growers and viticulturists, will be eligible to enter.

“Each entrant is visited by a small group of rural professionals.

“They want to look for opportunities to improve the financial and environmental sustainability of each business. Those judging teams have a wide range of skills and look at all parts of the farming business in a reasonably informal manner,” Mr Wyn-Harris said.

“It’s not just targeted at top farmers but those on the journey to the top.

“The awards are an important opportunity to grow and learn from others.”

Gisborne comes under the East Coast region of the awards, which covers the geographic area of the Gisborne District Council and the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council. While Gisborne has had many finalists in the 10 years of the awards in the region, it has only had one supreme winner — Rob and Sandra Faulkner and Bruce and Jo Graham, Wairakaia Partnership, in 2014.

Mayor Meng Foon has been a vocal supporter of the awards since their inception in the region.

“It has been amazing to get to know our land businesses better,” Mr Foon said.

“Our region has so much innovation and potential but best of all is our land-based businesses sharing their hard work and passion in the greater New Zealand context of farming.”

Councillor Pat Seymour has also stepped forward to judge in the awards, which she said was a privilege.

“It was really interesting having the opportunity to get ‘inside’ the business and have the ideals and enthusiasm of the landowner shared with the judging panel.

“No two businesses are the same even if their crop is the same.

“The particular attributes of the property impact on the type of growth and the end product of any crop, be it livestock, horticulture or tree crops,” Mrs Seymour said.

“The landscape itself comes into it and we see landowners working to show the very significant attributes of their property through conservation and protection of waterways and wetlands. Indigenous vegetation and planted exotics have all been showcased over various properties.”

She encourages farmers, horticulturists and all land-based businesses to enter this year. “It is a great opportunity to critique one’s own operation in a very constructive way with the judging panel.

“After farming on Wensleydale for 50 years and visiting farm forestry properties across New Zealand for the past 30 years, I have explored many great examples of sensitive land use.

“In the BFEA competition here in Gisborne we see properties that are up there with the best of national properties.

“They don’t need to be large, just enthusiastically functioning in one’s own specific industry.”

Finalists will be judged a second time by a separate finalist judging panel.

East Coast finalists will be eligible for 10 category awards in 2020: Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award, Bayleys People in Primary Sector Award, Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Award, DairyNZ Sustainability and Stewardship Award, Hill Laboratories Agri-Science Award, Massey University Innovation Award, Norwood Agri-Business Management Award, WaterForce Integrated Management Award and a new Synlait-sponsored climate change award.

The GDC and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council also sponsor a Farming for the Future Award.

Details of the awards, frequently asked questions and other entrant information can be found on the website.

East Coast entries close in mid-October.

“Entering the Awards is free and takes two minutes by completing a simple form, available online at www.bfea.org.nz,” said co-ordinator Kate Taylor.

“People are also able to nominate another farming or growing business they feel would benefit from involvement in the awards programme.”

The awards are organised by the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust, a charity set up to promote sustainable farming and growing.

‘WE NEED YOU’: Farmers, horticulturists, vegetable growers and viticulturists in Tairawhiti have been encouraged to enter the annual Ballance Farm Environment Awards. The Coop family from Mahia have previously made the finals and were pictured with the first round judging team. (From left) Whangara farmer Peter Reeves, Richard Coop, farmer and Ballance representative Mark Gemmell, Hannah Coop and Gisborne District Council water and coastal resources officer Sandy Gorringe. Picture supplied