En­ter­ing farm awards has its own re­wards

South Waikato News - - RURAL DELIVERY -

Pu­taruru dairy farmer and con­sul­tant Gray Bald­win is a big be­liever in the old adage ‘‘If at first you don’t suc­ceed, try, try again’’. He and wife Mar­i­lyn have en­tered the Waikato Bal­lance Farm En­vi­ron­ment Awards three times in re­cent years and in their third at­tempt they and their sharemilk­ers Hamish and Jane Putt col­lected the Supreme award for the Waikato re­gion in 2009.

While en­tries for the 2011 event closed ear­lier this month, Mr Bald­win said there were huge ben­e­fits to en­ter­ing and he en­cour­aged peo­ple to take the op­por­tu­nity to do so.

He said a key rea­son for re-en­ter­ing the awards was to find out how they could im­prove the sus­tain­abil­ity of their or­ganic dairy busi­ness which milks about 430 cows on 180ha.

The Bald­wins said they learnt a lot from their pre­vi­ous in­volve­ment in the com­pe­ti­tion and the ex­pert judges pro­vided valu­able feed­back on their op­er­a­tion.

‘‘One of the things the judges picked up on the first time we en­tered was that while we had plenty of forestry trees, we had very few trees planted di­rectly for stock shade and shel­ter. So that re­ally en­cour­aged us to im­prove our shel­ter plant­ings.’’

Last year the judg­ing panel de­scribed the Bald­win and Putt dairy ven­ture, called Wup­per­tal Part­ner­ship, as ‘‘an im­pres­sive farm­ing op­er­a­tion founded on ex­cel­lent work­ing re­la­tion­ships with sus­tain­abil­ity in mind through­out the busi­ness and a big pic­ture vi­sion be­yond the farm gate’’.

Mr Bald­win said farm­ers should def­i­nitely en­ter when they got the chance, even if they might feel their farm wasn’t up to scratch.

He had talked to a lot of farm­ers who said they planned to en­ter the awards ‘‘but not un­til they’ve got the duck­pond fin­ished, the last tree planted and the last pot-hole filled’’. But his ad­vice was to en­ter any­way. ‘‘Put all the un­fin­ished stuff aside and have a crack at en­ter­ing.

‘‘The farm is never go­ing to be 100 per cent ready and the sooner you en­ter, the sooner you can find out about what you need to do in fu­ture.’’

The Bald­wins and the Putts were among supreme win­ners from eight re­gions to at­tend the na­tional Sus­tain­abil­ity Show­case held in Welling­ton in 2009.

Mr Bald­win said this event, which in­cluded a din­ner at Par­lia­ment Build­ings, was a truly re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

‘‘We met a lot of in­ter­est­ing peo­ple and we’ve kept in touch with many of them. It was great to be able to net­work with so many lead­ers in the field of en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity.’’

Jane Putt said she and Hamish thought the awards were a fan­tas­tic ex­pe­ri­ence.

‘‘We’d never en­tered a farm­ing com­pe­ti­tion like this be­fore. Just pre­par­ing the en­try was a great ex­er­cise in it­self,’’ she said.

‘‘We ac­tu­ally en­joyed the judg­ing process and the judges gave us re­ally good ad­vice and some very en­cour­ag­ing feed­back.’’

Like Mr Bald­win, she said the Sus­tain­abil­ity Show­case was a huge high­light and she and Hamish thor­oughly en­joyed min­gling with in­dus­try lead­ers and the other supreme win­ners.

Photo: SUPPLIED.

PRO­DUC­TIVE: Past Waikato Bal­lance Farm En­vi­ron­ment Awards win­ner, Pu­taruru dairy farmer Gray Bald­win and sharemilker Hamish Putt found the com­pe­ti­tion help­ful.

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