Sustainable Vegetable Producer Wins Top Spot At Horizons Ballance Farm Environment Awards

Published: Thu 23 Apr 2020 07:54 AM
Woodhaven Gardens has been named 2020 Regional Supreme Winner at the Horizons Ballance Farm Environment Awards, run by the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust.
The awards champion sustainable farming and growing through a programme which sees one Regional Supreme Winner selected from each of the 11 regions involved. All Regional Supreme Winners are in the running for the Gordon Stephenson Trophy, with the winner of this national award to be announced at a later date.
Woodhaven Gardens is a family business established in 1978 by Eric and John Clarke, with the lifestyle choice soon becoming a passion for producing the best produce available.
The Levin property is unique for its size and crop diversity – 23 different vegetables, plus maize and ryegrass to improve soil health and reduce nutrient losses. Annually, they sell 27 million individual vegetable units which is about 10% of the national supply, and contribute between $30–35mil to New Zealand’s GDP.
In recent years, Woodhaven has significantly invested in reducing its environmental impact, adopting a science-led approach that balances conservation with commercial success.
The judges said major changes to farming practices have resulted in a significantly reduced environmental footprint, with further improvements ongoing.
“Woodhaven is a leader in research for the vegetable industry – contributing time, money and land in order to measure and provide evidence. This large-scale fresh vegetable growing operation is driving change in environmental sustainability.”Woodhaven Gardens. From left, John and Jay Clarke.
They commended the Clarkes for shifting production areas in order to reduce nitrogen loss and minimise the impact on water quality.
Woodhaven’s owners and directors view the farm holistically – growing for themselves while also enriching the lives of their staff, community, local iwi and environment. Their approach has been shared with Horticulture New Zealand and is being rolled out to other growers in the region. Watch their video on YouTube from 7.30pm tonight.
As well as receiving this year’s Regional Supreme Award, they also received the:Hill Laboratories Agri-Science AwardNorwood Agri-Business Management AwardSynlait Climate Stewardship AwardWaterForce Wise with Water Award
Each year, the Ballance Farm Environment Awards offer unique, pan-sector opportunities for the sharing of ideas and information among grower peers, agribusiness professionals and the wider community.Other 2020 Horizons Award Winners.Brendon & Rachel Williams
Pencoed Trust – Marton, RangitikeiPencoed. Brendon & Rachel Williams.
Brendon and Rachel are third generation farmers on this property that was chosen for its excellent soils and has been actively developed since 2000 under a family Trust.
The arable and finishing property’s main crops are wheat, maize, peas and grass, while it finishes about 2,500 lambs and 100 cattle annually.
Decision-making is based on caring for the soil – including using soil maps and having extensive sub-soil drainage. The farm is one of the first arable cropping enterprises to seek resource consents under the Horizons One Plan. Other conservation measures include retirement planting, reducing the use of fossil fuels, stock exclusion from waterways, retention dams to reduce runoff, and a fully reticulated water system.
Knowledge is a key tool, enabling the family to make informed decisions around improving production systems – ultimately producing a sustainable income.Tony & Lynda Gray
Kinross Partnership – Apiti, ManawatuKinross. Lynda & Tony Gray.
This family-operated business is owned and operated by Tony and Lynda Gray who are focused on maximising returns in an environmentally sustainable way.
It was the first farm to complete an Horizons Whole Farm Plan (SLUI) and over the past 14 years this has included planting more than 1,000 poplar poles and 6ha of Douglas fir.
Along with 1,260 sheep, 100 beef and 420 deer, the farm incorporates 125ha of QEII- covenanted regenerating native bush and has a possum control programme that includes poisoning and trapping. The Grays are fencing off the last waterway and are planning to isolate wetlands and do riparian planting. They have started investigating carbon farming options and are working with a local beekeeper who has hives on the farm.
The farm is starting to reap financial rewards from years of improvements around livestock production and environmental protection, and the family wants to ensure this progress continues.Mark Johnston & Rebecca Jeffery
Ruahine Range Views – Dannevirke, TararuaRuahine. Rebecca Jeffery & Mark Johnston.
These owner-operators have completely transformed the dairy section of their property since buying it in 2017, merging two dairy farms into one self-contained unit.
They now farm 350 dairy cows over 131ha, with a further 80ha adjacent to boost the summer milking platform. The farm has a low stock rate and high production – about 1.7 cows per hectare – and significant time and investment has gone into improving infrastructure and water provisions.
The biodiversity of the property has also undergone a transformation, including the planting of 5,000 pines and 700 natives over the past two years, the creation of four wetlands, monthly possum control and the installation of kilometres of fencing along creeks.
The couple has implemented everything they wanted for the farm and feel they have greatly improved the state of the property since they took over.Dave Milne
Lakeview Farm – Levin, HorowhenuaHillary and Dave Milne of Lakeview Farm
Lakeview Farm combines forestry with a beef and sheep breeding and fattening unit managed by Dave Milne, along with a dairy unit managed by a 50:50 sharemilker.
About two-thirds of the 1,580ha property is devoted to sheep and beef breeding and finishing, with 130ha used for dairy farming and the balance consisting of forestry, wetlands and native bush.
Pine trees have been planted mainly on sandy ridges prone to erosion, while the farm has worked with local Iwi and councils to fence off areas of native bush and Lake Horowhenua.
Pests and weeds including gorse, rabbits, possums and Canada geese are controlled on the property, and a more formal animal health plan has been developed in recent years in association with the local vet clinic.
A key focus for the farm is to work with good people in order to improve the land so it’s in better order for future generations.Chalky & Lesley Leary
Onga – Hunterville, RangitikeiOnga. Chalky and Lesley Leary.
Owner-operators Chalky and Lesley Leary have had a stake in Onga since 1973 and are now setting up a succession plan for their nephew to take over.
Along with breeding sheep and cattle, Onga farm has 118ha of radiata pine that brings in an average yearly income of $100,000. The property was smothered with gorse in 1973 and forestry was originally introduced to control it – and later to help manage erosion. The farm is now virtually gorse-free and boasts significant new infrastructure.
Three blocks of native bush are protected with QEII National Trust covenants and, for shade and erosion control, native bush is continually being fenced off and poplars planted. Other priorities are actively managing possum and deer, along with soil and water conservation.
Having spent 12 years in local government, Chalky appreciates the challenges facing both councils and farmers, and is keen to demonstrate the good work that’s happening.

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