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The future of farming

From left: Terence McGruddy, Cam Ewan, Lew Olds, Tom Fuller, and William, Charlotte and Isabella Beetham of Beetham Pastural. PHOTOS/NZ FARM ENVIRONMENT TRUST

GIANINA SCHWANECKE takes a look at this year’s innovative farmers and growers recognised in the 2020 Ballance Farm Awards. Run by the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust, the awards celebrate good farm practices that promote sustainable land management.


William Beetham, Beetham Pastural – Masterton

Federated Farmers Wairarapa president William Beetham has been recognised for his involvement in his 163-year-old family sheep and beef farming business.

Beetham Pastural has three family shareholders which operate three farms across Masterton, Wainuioru and Kapiti – each with its own environment plan.

The Masterton farm features native bush preserved under QEII National Trust covenants and has implemented measures to reduce environmental impacts while increasing biodiversity.

These include extensive erosion-control and waterway plantings, areas for carbon sequestration, wetland restoration and projects to mitigate sediment and nutrient loss.

“I feel very humbled by the other entrants,” Beetham said.

“I know they’ve done amazing things so to be listed next to them is a real achievement.”

Rob Dick, Easterbo – Carterton

Rob Dick of Easterbo.

Owner-operator Rob Dick has been farming Easterbo since 2008 and is committed to working with the right people to implement sustainable farming methods.

He grazes 2100 hoggets, 1400 hogget lambs and 600 ewes on a range of grain, summer rape, red clover and plantain, using a no-tillage cross slot-drill for cropping and re-grassing.

Environmental efforts have included the riparian planting of about 8000 plants, fencing off waterways, installing culverts and pulling out willow trees.

He said he was passionate about the environment and seeing the hard work pay off as biodiversity and native plantings increased.

“It’s nice to be recognised and be part of the industry.”

Jeff and Shirley Ravenwood, Fernglen and Motu-Nui – Homewood

From left: Jeff, Cameron and Shirley Ravenwood of Fernglen and Motu-Nui.

The development and marketing of sheep milk products are the focus of the Ravenwood family who have been farming sheep and beef since 1995.

Running 3800 sheep, 200 beef and 300 goats, the whole family is involved in improving the properties.

The farm features 390-hectares of native bush and numerous QEII National Trust covenants.

Wetlands on Motu-Nui are fenced off, up to 200 poplar and willow poles are planted annually and most paddocks have shelter belts.

A milking shed was built in 2018 to establish a local artisan cheese factory.

Shirley said it was a “privilege” to be in the finals considering who they were up against.

Fernglen Farm was also recently recognised at the Outstanding New Zealand Food Producer Awards, taking home a gold medal for their Pure New Zealand Sheep Milk in the dairy category.

Aidan Bichan, Neville Fisher and Vern Brasell, Kaiwaiwai Dairies – Featherston

From left: Neville Fisher, Aidan Bichan, and Vern Brasell of Kaiwaiwai Dairies.

Good environmental stewardship is the focus at Kaiwaiwai Dairies, a dairy farm operated as an equity partnership with six shareholders.

Running 900 dairy cows and 20 beef cattle, the business is almost completely self-contained – helping provide biosecurity assurance and reducing risk around feed supplies.

Environmental projects include a wetland development, native plantings, regenerating a Kahikatea stand, testing fish passages and flow controls.

The team is also focused on improving energy efficiency, reducing stock drug use and improving the quality of water leaving the farm.

Bichan said it was a great competition and the entry process had been a useful farm planning tool.

“This is a real celebration of the rural industry but the real value is in the process of entering.”

Ben and Karen Herrick, Kowhai Bush Organics – Carterton

Karen and Ben Herrick of Kowhai Bush Organics in Carterton.

Over the past three years, the couple has transformed their 85-ha once-a-day dairy operation into a low-cost business that is Fully Certified Organic.

They run 235 milking cows and 82 replacement stock which receive only homoeopathic remedies.

No chemical fertilisers are used and the property features one-hectare of fenced native bush and a recently retired wetland area.

Dung beetles were introduced last season to help get cow manure down to the roots of large trees being used for erosion control.

Shelter and shade is also provided by the many kowhai and plum trees on the property.


Andy Duncan, Totarabank – Masterton

Sustainability and energy efficiency are the core themes of Totarabank – a lifestyle development with eight freehold lots and common land managed by the Totarabank Residents’ Association.

The development includes an olive grove, two orchards and one-kilometre of walking and activity tracks.

It also features a coppicing firewood lot that meets thermal energy needs, communal recreational areas and a wastewater disposal system that irrigates native bush.

Water quality is improved through a stormwater retention pond and wetland area.

Totarabank also generates its own electricity, has a solar water heating system and buildings are thermally efficient.

Barrie Cook, Whakatomotomo – Pirinoa

What began as a lifestyle choice has largely become a mission to preserve this property’s native forest – the last remnant of its kind in the Whakatomotomo Valley.

The property includes five acres of swamp forest protected by a QEII National Trust covenant and features numerous old kahikatea as well as pukatea and swamp maire.

Preserving and improving water supply has been a key focus after a significant number of trees died in 2016, some of which were more than 400 years old.

Cook views the forest as a community asset and regularly hosts tours.

He said he is grateful for the practical support he has had from his neighbour Palliser Ridge Station – the Greater Wellington supreme regional winner at the 2019 Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

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