Rural Environment Awards tell positive stories in difficult times

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Stephen and Kelly Nicol from Oldermoor, Otago, have been named 2023 National Ambassadors and winners of this year's Gordon Stevenson Trophy at the Balance Farm Environmental Awards.

Provided by/NZ Agriculture and Environment Trust

Stephen and Kelly Nicol from Oldermoor, Otago, have been named 2023 National Ambassadors and winners of this year’s Gordon Stevenson Trophy at the Balance Farm Environmental Awards.

National winners of the Agri-Environmental Awards say positive farming stories are needed in times of uncertainty for the industry.

Stephen and Kelly Nicol from Oldermoor, Otago, have been named national ambassadors for 2023 and received this year’s Gordon Stevenson Trophy at the Balance Farm Environmental Awards.

Entries close on October 30 for the competition, which celebrates the achievements of farmers and producers, showcases good practices and shares positive stories.

“This award helps prove that profitability goes hand in hand with sustainability,” say the organizers.

Applying for the award gave the Nicols an opportunity to reflect on their work and learn from others.

Provided by/NZ Agriculture and Environment Trust

Applying for the award gave the Nicols an opportunity to reflect on their work and learn from others.

Up to six entries from 11 regions across New Zealand will be chosen to tell their stories and shortlisted for an award.

All applicants will be visited by a team of colleagues and agribusiness experts, where they will demonstrate what they do and receive feedback and ideas.

The Nicholls said they applied for the award primarily to contribute to a positive farming story, but also enjoyed the opportunity to reflect on their business and learn from others.

The 1498ha site at Clarks Junction is primarily a sheep breeding and finishing operation, with additional cattle grazing, carbon forestry and production forestry.

The facility is managed by Grant Bezzet, and the consultant-doctor couple live in a lifestyle district near Mozgiel.

The team runs 4,500 ewes, 1,500 hoggets and 80 rams and grazes an average of 290 mixed-age beef cattle each year.

Adapting farm systems and focusing on on-farm measurement and monitoring has led to continuous improvements in livestock performance and profitability.

Initiatives that impressed the judges included improving soil health, enhancing biodiversity, engaging local community catchment groups and greenhouse gas mitigation projects, and helping the couple ensure the success of their farming operations. This included the use of mentors and industry experts.

Oldhamor is primarily a sheep breeding and finishing operation, with additional cattle grazing, carbon forestry and production forestry.

Provided by/NZ Agriculture and Environment Trust

Oldhamor is primarily a sheep breeding and finishing operation, with additional cattle grazing, carbon forestry and production forestry.

Stephen Nicol said farmers face a number of challenges, including a high inflation environment, low product prices and changing compliance with central and local regulations.

“There is a lot of anxiety and a lot of unknowns for farmers.

“A lot of people have lost a bit of focus on the direction of their business, and we hope they can listen to our story and feel inspired.”

Kelly Nicol said New Zealand farmers were international leaders in innovation and sustainability.

“People don’t necessarily understand the complexity of farming and the effort and energy that farmers put into protecting the environment,” she says.

The review process provided the couple and their managers with the opportunity to obtain feedback from industry experts, reflect on their practices, and prioritize their strategic plans and KPIs.

They made sure they did what they said they were going to do and were able to look back on what they had accomplished in terms of farm and personal growth.

It will also highlight some thoughtful and clever new ideas for running your business that will be incorporated into your future strategic plans.

“It was very encouraging to see that we were moving in a positive direction,” Stephen said.

An unexpected benefit of participating in the awards was the opportunity to meet with diverse agribusiness leaders from across New Zealand.

They learned about technology-heavy automated dairy farms and spent time with kiwifruit farmers who have taken a fairly regenerative approach to their operations, as well as farmers who have taken an innovative approach to maintaining and managing their staff.

Kelly said agriculture was often portrayed in a dark light.

“If you look internationally, New Zealand farmers are leading the way, so it’s really powerful to follow and be a part of that.

“I think New Zealand really needs to step up and support farmers.”



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