Awards a chance to learn, de­velop

Otago Daily Times - - BUSINESS & MONEY -

ONE of Paula Cross’ aims is to make the wider pub­lic aware of all the good things that are hap­pen­ing be­hind the farm gate.

Rais­ing the pro­file of farm­ing is some­thing the new judg­ing co­or­di­na­tor for the Otago Bal­lance Farm En­vi­ron­ment Awards is pas­sion­ate about.

Mrs Cross is no stranger to the awards process; she and her hus­band Bren­don were supreme win­ners in the Otago awards in 2016.

Now she is an en­thu­si­as­tic am­bas­sador for the com­pe­ti­tion, en­cour­ag­ing oth­ers to get in­volved and reap the many ben­e­fits, as they did.

Open­ing that farm gate was also some­thing the en­vi­ron­men­tally­minded cou­ple em­braced in a bid to show and ed­u­cate their ur­ban coun­ter­parts about farm­ing.

They have hosted var­i­ous school vis­its and have a visit pend­ing from the lo­cal pri­mary school as part of a Red Meat Profit Part­ner­ship pro­gramme in con­junc­tion with New Zealand Young Farm­ers and CORE Ed­u­ca­tion.

Their home, Roselle Farm, 2km from Por­to­bello, is a par­tic­u­larly spe­cial spot. For more than 150 years, the Cross fam­ily has farmed amid the stun­ning beauty of the Otago Penin­sula.

Bren­don is the sixth gen­er­a­tion to farm there, tak­ing over the prop­erty at 21 fol­low­ing the un­timely death of his fa­ther Ron.

In 1863, Bren­don’s great­great­great grand­fa­ther James McCartney bought 20ha at the top of Weir Rd and milked cows and fat­tened pigs.

Other prop­er­ties were added over the years and, in 1957, Roselle Farm be­came a sheep farm.

The lat­est gen­er­a­tion on the prop­erty have en­joyed their ru­ral up­bring­ing and both have ca­reer plans with a ru­ral bent.

Thomas Cross (18) is head­ing to Lin­coln Uni­ver­sity next year to study agri­cul­tural com­merce and his sis­ter Han­nah (16) is

❛ We don’t ex­pect a per­fect farm with ev­ery box ticked. Fu­ture plan­ning and fu­ture think­ing is the fo­cus

keen to study vet­eri­nary science.

Roselle Farm is a 200ha prop­erty, al­though the cou­ple lease other blocks, giv­ing them a to­tal area of just over 900ha.

The Hereweka/Har­bour

Cone block, leased from the Dunedin City Coun­cil, fea­tures the dis­tinc­tive Har­bour Cone, along with his­toric lime kilns owned by the Otago Penin­sula Trust.

About 6.5km of pub­lic walk­ing tracks are open most of the year and Bren­don is heav­ily in­volved with the Otago Penin­sula Bio­di­ver­sity Group.

Ron and An­nette Cross planted many trees on the farm and that plant­ing has been con­tin­ued by the next gen­er­a­tion.

The cou­ple have planted a lot of trees for slip pro­tec­tion, such as wil­lows, poplars and eu­ca­lypts, and Bren­don and Paula have in­creased the ex­tent of na­tive plant­ings, in­clud­ing ri­par­ian plant­ings around streams.

Shel­ter for stock is very im­por­tant to the cou­ple and Bren­don has con­tin­ued with plant­ing shel­ter belts so ev­ery pad­dock had shel­ter.

Paula Cross grew up on a nurs­ery on the out­skirts of Hast­ings and came to Dunedin for ter­tiary stud­ies.

She was in­tro­duced to Bren­don through her flat­mate whose boyfriend — now hus­band — was flat­ting with him.

Co­in­ci­den­tally, that cou­ple — ki­wifruit grow­ers Mark and Ca­tri­ona White, from the Bay of Plenty — were this year’s win­ners of the na­tional Bal­lance Farm En­vi­ron­ment Awards and the Gor­don Stephen­son Tro­phy.

Mrs Cross said it was great to see a ki­wifruit op­er­a­tion win the award and she was keen to en­cour­age other hor­ti­cul­tur­ists and viti­cul­tur­ists to en­ter.

On com­plet­ing her teach­ing stud­ies, Mrs Cross ap­plied for a teach­ing job in Otago but it proved dif­fi­cult to get and she headed back to Hawke’s Bay.

Mr Cross fol­lowed her and worked on a farm but, half­way through that year, his fa­ther died and he re­turned home.

It was al­ways the plan that he would even­tu­ally re­turn to the farm, but it hap­pened ear­lier than the cou­ple had thought, Mrs Cross said.

She fin­ished her year teach­ing and then got a teach­ing job in the South and be­gan a new life on the farm, which was not a ma­jor tran­si­tion.

Her grand­par­ents were farm­ers, and she fondly re­called vis­its to their farm, while she grew up with soil un­der her fin­gers, she quipped.

Her fa­ther grew plants and she spent her hol­i­days prop­a­gat­ing plants and help­ing with any­thing that needed done.

As well as the nurs­ery, the fam­ily also had a small or­chard, sell­ing berries, fruit and plants from a road­side stall.

Bren­don was al­ways keen to en­ter the farm en­vi­ron­ment awards and the cou­ple first en­tered in 2005.

At that time, they wanted to ac­knowl­edge the work Ron Cross had done on the prop­erty but, in hind­sight, they were not re­ally ready for it.

So they de­cided they would ‘‘do it later prop­erly’’ and that was ad­vice they now gave to oth­ers, say­ing it was a good idea to en­ter and get a feel for it, then go back and re­en­ter in the fu­ture.

The awards were so much more than just plant­ing trees; the judg­ing cri­te­ria were broad.

En­trants were judged on pro­duc­tion, bio­di­ver­sity, fi­nan­cial strat­egy, health and safety, in­busi­ness prac­tice and com­pli­ance, nu­tri­ent, wa­ter and soil man­age­ment, peo­ple and com­mu­nity in­volve­ment.

‘‘This may seem daunt­ing but we don’t ex­pect a per­fect farm with ev­ery box ticked. Fu­ture plan­ning and fu­ture think­ing is the fo­cus.

‘‘With volatil­ity in the weather, mar­ket prices and chal­lenges like My­coplasma bo­vis, we fully un­der­stand cer­tain plans are put on hold due to a farmer/grower need­ing to do what is re­quired at the time to meet these chal­lenges.

‘‘OBFEA is some­thing that can help to give di­rec­tion and some­thing else to fo­cus on.

The em­pha­sis is to make our en­trants feel sup­ported and cel­e­brated as op­posed to feel­ing judged,’’ Mrs Cross said.

One of the best parts of be­ing in­volved was the feed­back from the judges, along with en­cour­age­ment around what en­trants were do­ing well.

Feed­back from their first en­try in­cluded the need to be more goal­driven and to set more tar­gets. So one of their goals was to en­ter it when they felt ready.

At the awards func­tion, there was an op­por­tu­nity to meet like­minded peo­ple and the cou­ple loved hear­ing sto­ries of the other farm­ing busi­nesses. ‘‘That feel­ing of cel­e­bra­tion was re­ally strong,’’ she said.

It also made them fol­low through with some of their plan­ning and pro­vide some di­rec­tion and there were al­ways tips that could be picked up from oth­ers and adapted to their own op­er­a­tion.

‘‘It ac­tu­ally means you’re mov­ing with the times, as well. If you are just look­ing within your own gate and fence, you tend to be just do­ing the same old, same old,’’ Mrs Cross said.

The ex­pe­ri­ence had also made the cou­ple more aware of what was re­quired of farm­ing, what peo­ple were ex­pect­ing, and what oth­ers were do­ing.

She was keen to bring ur­ban and ru­ral to­gether more and help im­prove the pro­file of farm­ing, so that in the mar­ket, New Zealand was seen as a coun­try that was ‘‘clean and green’’, that stock was well cared for and there was very much a pas­ture­based farm­ing sys­tem.

But if farm­ing prac­tices were to be cre­ated that were less in­ten­sive and more friendly to an­i­mals and the en­vi­ron­ment, then the mar­ket had to match that, she said.

‘‘That’s what we’re hop­ing for, for the fu­ture and the fu­ture of farm­ing in New Zealand,’’ she said.

One en­trant in the farm en­vi­ron­ment awards had em­barked on re­gen­er­a­tive pas­ture man­age­ment and that was re­ally ex­cit­ing.

That was just an ex­am­ple of learn­ing from oth­ers, get­ting new ideas and new ways for­ward with new prac­tices of farm­ing, she said.

En­tries close at the end of this month and more in­for­ma­tion can be found at www.nzfeatrust.org.nz

PHOTO: OLIVIA ROSS

Pic­ture per­fect . . . Par­tic­i­pants in the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Gen­er­a­tion Next pro­gramme visit Bren­don and Paula Cross’ Roselle Farm on the Otago Penin­sula.

PHOTO: GRE­GOR RICHARD­SON

Look­ing to the fu­ture . . . Bren­don and Paula Cross on their farm on the Otago Penin­sula.

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