Sustainable farming title goes to Canterbury
Canterbury farmers have made it two years in a row after Mark and Devon Slee were named the national winners of the Ballance Farm Environment Awards in Christchurch last night.
The Gordon Stephenson trophy, farming's top environmental and sustainable silverware, was handed to the couple by Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy.
Click here to read how the Slees are proving dairy farmers can remain profitable while adopting techniques to care for the environment.
The Slees topped a field of 10 regional winners in the competition run by the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust (NZFE).
Their business, Melrose Dairy, is based on a property portfolio of 1014 hectares in the Ealing district, south of Ashburton.
They oversee the milking of more than 2600 cows through three dairy sheds on three farms centred around a milking platform of 660ha and are among industry leaders in profitability.
They rely on the basic principles of growing grass, using it well and maintaining pasture quality.
The Slees have based their operation around running a business that is sustainable in as many ways as possible - for people, cows and the environment - and to add to its profitability.
NZFE acting chairman Simon Saunders said the Slees would be great ambassadors for New Zealand agriculture.
"Mark and Devon possess the outstanding communication and leadership skills necessary to spread the sustainability message to both a national and international audience."
He said they were chosen from a top group of regional winners.
"All of the supreme winners demonstrated a huge amount of passion and commitment - not just for their own farming businesses but for New Zealand agriculture as a whole."
The competition celebrates the contribution agriculture makes to the economy and highlights farmers' efforts to find better ways to manage complex farming systems.
Saunders, who chaired the national judging panel, said the national winner was chosen after a rigorous judging process.
He said last year's winners, Canterbury farmers Craige and Roz Mackenzie, had done an excellent job of taking the sustainability message around New Zealand and overseas.
Within the judging team were Jamie Strang, Warwick Catto, Paul Lamont, Charmaine O'Shea and Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills.
During the evening function Saunders paid tribute to NZFE chairman and Whanganui farmer Alistair Polson, who died of cancer this month after a short illness.
North Island farmers have yet to claim the title with Grant and Bernie Weller from Southland announced the first national winners in 2011 followed a year later by Blair and Jane Smith from Otago.