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Family takes out top farm environment award

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The van Ras Family of Morrinsville have been named 2021 Regional Supreme Winners in the Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

The awards, run by the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust, champion sustainable farming and growing.

The supreme regional winner, Waiorongomai Valley Farms, is a family affair with two generations of the van Ras family, Johan and Kylie and Richard and Truus, all living on the land that the family bought in 2010 after previously leasing the farm for six years.

The 76ha farm has 215 cows and has stock health as a main priority. The family say they are constantly looking to improve their environmental impact and balance sustainability with profitability.

They entered the Ballance Farm Environment Awards in the hope of learning from the awards experience and to help share positive stories from the farming industry.

The judges said that the van Rases are good adopters of technology who understand the value of using accurate data to inform good management practice and sustainable business decisions.

“It is evident that the van Ras family work well as a team and have an excellent succession plan across three generations. We believe that this farm business offers many industry leadership opportunities for the van Ras family,” the judges said.

As well as receiving this year’s Regional Supreme Award, they also received the:

  • Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award
  • DairyNZ Sustainability and Stewardship Award
  • WaterForce Integrated Management Award
  • Synlait Future Leaders Award

This year the Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards included a new award category for Catchment Groups. The 2021 winners of this award are Pūniu River Care.

When it comes to catchment management, Pūniu River Care, (PRC), are big initiators in the Waikato. Established in 2015 to enable local hapū to be involved in the restoration of the Pūniu River Catchment, PRC work with their rural community, iwi, regional and central government to implement restoration work at scale. A main part of their work is training people from the community to propagate native plants at Mangatoatoa marae which are then planted around rivers, lakes, wetlands and erodible land.

The organisation has grown rapidly since its inception and will deliver 500,000 native plants, planted into the Pūniu and Waipa River catchments in May 2021 and has the capacity to deliver in excess of 1 million plants each year in the coming seasons.

The nursery and planting operation currently employs more than 30 people and the organisation is committed to building the skills and capability of their team, with a number of young staff members being supported into leadership roles.

Encouraging the next generation is also a priority with an education programme running at the local whare kura to ensure the ongoing success of PRC, the improvement of the environment and the hope it gives marae throughout Aotearoa.

The BFEA judges were impressed with the engagement of the team at PRC. “It was very evident that the staff believed in the vision of the organisation and looked to be really enjoying their work,” said the judges.

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