Innovative thinking earns title for Taupo couple
Mike and Sharon Barton's innovative approach to farming in an environmentally sensitive area has earned them the supreme title in the 2014 Waikato Farm Environment Awards.
The Western Taupo beef farmers were presented with the award as well as category awards for soil management and innovation at a ceremony near Karapiro last night.
The Barton's farm at Glen Emmreth Farm near Tihoi. They purchased the 142ha property in 2004 at a time when strict environmental legislation to protect the health of the lake was looming.
They faced this challenge head-on, determined to make their farm as environmentally sustainable as possible.
The judges said the business had been built from its inception with the understanding that it must be made environmentally sustainable in an extremely difficult location.
They praised the Barton's proactive mind-set and their huge commitment to furthering industry change "to true environmental accountability and sustainability".
Their farm carries 2000 stock units on 128 effective hectares, including an 8ha lease block.
The Barton's have performed considerable environmental work on the farm, including fencing and planting riparian areas.
Mike is a former chairman of farmer group Taupo Lake Care and a trustee for the Lake Taupo Protection Trust, the body charged with reducing the catchment's nitrogen output.
He and Sharon successfully "agitated" for science and research funding specifically for farming in the Taupo area, and Glen Emmreth became the host farm for a five-year AgResearch trial.
The Barton's have been heavily involved in this research, which the awards judges said had provided a catalyst "to get farmers to think outside of their conventional ways and challenge themselves to be more environmentally aware and responsible".
A BFEA Supreme-winner field day will be held on Glen Emmreth on May 21.
The full list of winners for this year's awards are:
Supreme award, soil management award and innovation award: Mike and Sharon Barton.
Energy excellence award: Henri and Yvonne Schipper, Swanslea Farm Ltd, Thames.
Livestock award, integrated management award and land and life award: Phillip and Anne Woodward, Nikau Café and Cave, Emily and Sam Welsh, Nikau Coopworth, Kate Broadbent, Nikau Coopworth, Tuakau.
Dairy farm award, harvest award, water protection award; Richard and Pauline Kean (farm owners), Jetstream Farms Ltd, Philip and Kim Dykzeul (sharemilkers), Milky Way Farms Ltd, Matamata.
Farm stewardship award, catchment improvement award; Keith and Margaret Ormsby, KP and MA Ormsby Trust, Te Awamutu.