International win for NZ farmers
Central Hawke's Bay deer farmers Tim Aitken and Lucy Robertshawe have been recognised by a big British supermarket chain for environmentally safe farming.
They have been named the 2012 Champion of Champions in the Marks & Spencer Farming for the Future Award.
The award, held annually, celebrates those farmers in the British retailer's supply chain who are improving the environmental sustainability of their businesses.
The couple, who run 600 hinds at Tikokino, were first named as the winners of the award's International section, before going head-to-head against the winners of Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England. The ultimate winner was decided by public vote, via the Marks & Spencer website.
Aitken said they feel "very humbled that all those people got in behind us. It is a validation of all the hard work we've put into the farm over the years".
Steve McLean, in charge of sourcing meat, vegetables and fish for Marks & Spencer, said the judges were particularly impressed with the work the couple had done on improving the natural environment and water quality on their farm, with their involvement as a deer industry research farm and with their approach to animal welfare. They were also pleased they shared their knowledge with the wider farming community.
The couple are suppliers to and shareholders in Firstlight Venison which sells to top British retailers.