Local farmers and growers up for award

The Baylys diversified into garden plants in the 1990s, then sculptures.

The farming practices of three distinctly different local agricultural ventures have won them a place in the regional final of the 2018 Ballance Farm Environment Awards, which celebrate and promote sustainable land use.

The finalists are David, Geraldine, Don and Margaret Bayly, of the Kaipara Coast Plant Centre, Sculpture Gardens and beef farm at Kaukapakapa; Stephen, Clare, Bruce and Felicity Dill, who farm sheep and beef in the Kaipara Hills; and Ray and Pam Hollis’s Gracefarm farm park and dairy venture in Te Hana. They are up against one further finalist, Andrew and Liisa Hamilton’s dairy farm on the Awhitu Peninsula, south of Auckland.

The Dill family have been farming in the Kaipara Hills for five generations.

To get to the final, all three local businesses have been visited and evaluated by a team of experienced farmers, growers and agri-business professionals, who offer constructive advice and feedback and provide a comprehensive report of their findings and recommendations, something which all the finalists say has been extremely useful.

“It’s been great to have other professional eyes cast over the farm and get a slightly different opinion, because you do tend to get a bit stuck in your ways,” Stephen Dill says. “It’s nice to get feedback. It’s been a good experience.”

David Bayly agrees. “It’s been good meeting like-minded people, we’ve had some good conversations.”

Ray and Pam Hollis spent more than 10 years clearing gorse and weeds.

The three businesses could hardly be more different in terms of what they do. The Baylys have 121 hectares on the Kaipara Coast, where Don and Margaret breed beef cattle and son David runs a popular nursery, plant centre and sculpture walk that attracts thousands of visitors every year. Stephen and Bruce Dill farm sheep and beef on the 488 hectares that have been in their family since 1889. They also offer rural hiking getaways in their solar-powered bach on the slopes near Mount Auckland, or Atuanui. Ray and Pam Hollis have established a ‘farm park’, dividing their 100 hectares into conservation land, working farmland and 12 rural residential blocks that are freehold but have a share in the common land. “We wanted to ensure the sustainability of productive land use and conservation land use with the social benefits of having rural lifestyle blocks where people take an interest in the land,” Ray says.

What the local finalists have in common, however, is a commitment to improving and caring for their land, and being environmentally aware while running a successful business – just what the judges of the Ballance Farm Environment Awards are looking for.

The awards are facilitated by the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust as a way of showcasing NZ’s most environmentally responsible and profitable farmers as positive role models, while providing entrants with information on best-practice management of their natural resources.

The Regional Supreme Winner will be announced at an awards night dinner in Auckland on April 4.


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