Young farming couple applauded for farm sustainability

A farming couple applauded for their commitment to farming sustainability have a simple message for other farmers - make a plan and make a start.

Simon and Trudy Hales, of Kereru Farms, are one of eleven regional winners of the Ballance Farm Environment Awards - taking out the Horizons regional award.

The Hales are the fourth generation to farm the land, and have worked hard to make positive changes on their 970ha sheep and beef farm near Weber. 

They carry 3850 ewes with a lambing percentage of 134-145 percent.

Last year the Hales weaned 145 percent at an average weight of 30kg. Their cattle policy is relatively flexible and dependent on markets.

The judges said the Hales run their property with the environment in mind .
The judges said the Hales run their property with the environment in mind . Photo credit: Supplied

While running a successful framing operation, the Hales are equally concerned with improving their land with a vision to leave it in the best state possible. 

This has seen plans for a future programme of native planting to improve the farm's aesthetics and to mitigate the effect of soil loss through erosion.

Features on the Hales' property include the retirement or exclusion of the the majority of the Akitio River from stock, the propagation of native seedlings with seeds sourced locally or on farm, which will be planted within riparian areas, allowing areas to revert to scrub for biodiversity values, and the development of a health and safety plan.  

The couple told Magic Talk's Rural Exchange that they were absolutely thrilled with the win.

Simon and Trudy Hales with their children, Rocky and Alby
Simon and Trudy Hales with their children, Rocky and Alby Photo credit: Supplied

They said one of the main reasons for entering the awards was to get feedback on the work they had been doing.

"We have been doing work on the property since we came up with a plan with Horizon's Council a few years ago.

We wanted experts on-farm to see if we were on the right track, to see if we re doing the right thing and spending money in the right places.

"Getting the experts through and getting the advice and feedback was important."

The judges said the couple showed strong forward-thinking. 

"They run their property with the environment in mind and want leave it in a good state for their future generations."

The Hales have allowed areas to revert to scrub for biodiversity values.
The Hales have allowed areas to revert to scrub for biodiversity values. Photo credit: Supplied

Meanwhile the Hales believe that many farmers will be working more sustainably than they realise.

"To be in farming, you have to look after your land."

Their advice for farmers wanting to make positive changes was to go at their own pace: "Look at what you can achieve, make a plan and and do it at your own pace. Make a start and things flow on from there - you start to see results."

As well as winning the Supreme Regional Award for Horizons, the Hales also won:

- Bayleys People in Primary Sector Award - focused on the all-important people side of the farming and growing business; 

- Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Farm Award - recognises the livestock farmer who demonstrates the need for long-term land and animal stewardship; 

- Norwood Agri-Business Management Award - for farmers accomplishing the important management practices of operating a successful farm business;  

- Predator Free NZ Trust Predator Free Farm Award - recognises the efforts of land managers to successfully control animal predators to achieve native biodiversity outcomes; 

- Fonterra Farm Stewardship Award - this award is for the creation of special places on farm and may include protection and/or enhancement of cultural, historic, or unique natural or manmade features. 

Listen to Simon and Trudy Hales' full interview with Rural Exchange above.

The Ballance Farm Environment Awards champion sustainable farming and growing through an awards programme which sees one Regional Supreme Winner selected from each of the 11 regions involved. These Regional Supreme Winners will be profiled at the Awards' National Sustainability Showcase in Hamilton, on Thursday 6 June, with each in the running for the Gordon Stephenson Trophy.