North Waikato sheep and beef farmer John Jackson has had an interesting and eclectic journey on the way to his eventual farming career and farm ownership.
Facilitated by the New Zealand Farm Environment (NZFE) Trust and held in 11 regions throughout the country, the awards promote best-practice land management by showcasing the work of people farming in a way that is environmentally, economically and socially sustainable.
Entries for the 2017 Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) opened on August 1, 2016.
NZFE Trust national judging coordinator Andrea Hanna says all farmers and horticulturists, including orchardists, vegetable growers and viticulturists, are eligible to enter.
She says most people participate because they want high quality feedback on how their farming operation stacks up in terms of environmental, social and economic sustainability.
Hanna says the awards prove that sound environmental practices and good business management go hand in hand. Farmers who participate in the awards programme are also encouraged to share ideas and innovations with the wider farming community.
Entering the awards is as easy as filling out a simple form, available online at www.nzfeatrust.org.nz
It costs nothing to enter, and the awards programme offers excellent educational opportunities for any farmer wanting to learn more about how to improve the sustainability of their farming business, which includes key social, economic and environmental outcomes.
The judging teams have a wide range of skills and look at all parts of the farming business. Judging is conducted in a relaxed and friendly manner, and judges always take climatic factors into account.
"In the past we've found that farmers can be reluctant to enter if their farm has been affected by wet weather or drought. But the judges know that severe climatic events are all part of farming and they will look beyond this at the wider picture," Hanna says.
"It's not just targeted at top farmers. Every farmer should take the opportunity to enter."
Many past-entrants say their involvement in the awards has helped their personal development because they get to meet and be inspired by a range of like-minded people.
More information on the 2017 Ballance Farm Environment Awards is available on the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust website.