Farmer role models will lead the way for environmental challenges

Lawrence sheep and beef farmer Mark Patterson.
MARY-JO TOHILL/FAIRFAX NZ

Lawrence sheep and beef farmer Mark Patterson.

OPINION: It's been my privilege during the fortnight to attend two of the New Zealand premier farming events.

They were the New Zealand Century Farm awards in my hometown of Lawrence, for which I played a minor role on the organising committee, and the Ballance Farm Environment Awards in Invercargill.

This year we had 36 families from throughout New Zealand as the recipients of Century Farm plaques. Six of them received a sesquicentennial plaque, including the Matthews Family, from Northland, who can trace their tenure back to 1839. To give some context their title is signed by Governor Hobson.

Ballance Farm Environment Awards national winners Peter and Nicola Carver.

Ballance Farm Environment Awards national winners Peter and Nicola Carver.

There was an incredible camaraderie evident throughout the weekend as these families share so much in common. Their ability to survive as a family business through several generations, through depressions, two world wars, severe farming downturns and continue on with the drive to innovate and thrive is incredible.

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Several of the recipients were visibly moved as they accepted the award on behalf of generations past and following. The gratitude for the sacrifices their forebears had made to provide them with their opportunities was almost overwhelming for some.

The farm environment awards were an inspiring affair as a showcase for environmentally sustainable farming. Winners of all 11 regions were incredibly worthy and it would have been an exercise in splitting hairs to select a winner.

David, Alanna and Julie Clarke, of Glenham, and Simon and Kristen Englebrecht, of Palmerston, represented the south with distinction but overall honours and congratulations went to Peter and Nicola Carver, of Ohangi in Taranaki, for taking out the supreme award.

Farming's effects on the environment is a hot topic at the moment and some of the criticisms are not without justification. From my perspective the level of the debate has been disappointing from all sides with too much emphasis on defensiveness and apportioning blame.

What I witnessed over the last week reinforces my own view that farmers will rise to this challenge, just as our forebears responded previously. To do so we will require clarity and practical measures in place for which to follow.

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What we have in our favour is some magnificent role models leading the way.  

Mark Patterson is a Lawrence sheep and beef farmer.

 - Stuff

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