Entering farm awards has its own rewards
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.
PRODUCTIVE: Past Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards winner, Putaruru dairy farmer Gray Baldwin and sharemilker Hamish Putt found the competition helpful.