Glenham farmers win Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards

Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards winners David, Alanna and Julie Clarke.

Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards winners David, Alanna and Julie Clarke.

Glenham farmers David, Alanna and Julie Clarke have won the Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

The Clarkes also claimed the category awards for soil management, innovation award and water quality and biodiversity.

 The win was announced at a gala dinner at the Ascot Park Hotel, Invercargill, last week.

The Clarkes run their sheep breeding and finishing and dairy grazing business, Elgin Park Farms, on 315 hectares of gentle rolling to steep country in eastern Southland, close to the western fingers of the Catlins Forest Park.

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Judges praised the beautiful property as being farmed exceptionally well with outstanding environmental initiatives. They said the focus on sustainability was evident with every management decision on the farm.

Waterways were surrounded by fences and riparian planting. A large wetland and several sediment traps had been created to capture nutrients.

David Clarke arrived at the original block of what is now a 285ha (effective) property as a three-year-old with his mother Julie and father, the late Graeme, in 1984. He returned to farm it with his mother in 2009 and married Alanna soon after. The couple have two daughters, Isla, 6, and June, 4.

"We always had dreams before Dad died to do a lot of the environmental things we have now done on this place," David said.

"We're a team. The old man always called us the Clarke team and a team is not only us family members but the people you have around you. You're only as good as the people around you," he said at the awards dinner.

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Located on the edge of the former township of Glenham, south of Wyndham, the farm winters about 4300 stock units – about 70 per cent sheep. All progeny are finished and most years extra store lambs are bought in and finished. The high-performing 2200 romney-texel ewes achieved 162 per cent lambing at tailing last year. An elite flock is maintained with replacement stock kept only from those ewes.

Soon after coming home in 2009 David joined a local committee formed to establish a monitor farm under what is now the Beef + Lamb New Zealand programme.

He said the following four years had been an "intense and life-changing period" as they became a monitor farm.

Farm consultant Deane Carson was allocated to the Clarkes while they were the monitor farm and continues to be involved. He opened their eyes to environmental considerations that would become regulated.

"We were encouraged to look at those areas in a different light and the advice was basically to crack on with it, to front-foot any regulations coming. This changed our views and shaped how we went about developing and fencing, creating buffer zones, what we planted and the importance of protecting water critical sources."

At every opportunity they have future-proofed their work. They now have reticulated water to all paddocks, allowing them to push on and fence all waterways. An energy-saving water ram is part of the system.

Julie said the award was for David and Alanna, and thanked them for all of their work.

She also took the time to remind farmers to look after one another and not to be afraid to approach someone struggling, after telling the crowd David's father had chosen to take his life in 1998.

"Anything is possible, just look after yourselves."

As well as the Clarkes' three awards, six other category awards were announced at the dinner.

The harvest and livestock awards were won by Peter and Joy Horrell, who have a 298ha sheep breeding and cattle finishing operation at Clifden, northwest of Tuatapere.

The farm stewardship and agri-business awards were won by Derek and Bronwyn Chamberlain of West Range Station, a 2237ha dairy support and sheep and beef trading operation at Eastern Bush.

Peter and Olivia Blackmore won the dairy farm award and the integrated management award. Waitane Dairies Ltd is a 650-cow property west of Gore.

 - Stuff

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