Five years after the completion of the Organic Focus Vineyards project, Rebecca Reider reports back on soil monitoring and success stories.
Blair and Jane Smith run Newhaven Farms Ltd – a North Otago sheep, beef, forestry and dairy support operation that spans three family-owned properties totaling 1528ha.
Their win was announced at a special Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) ceremony on April 13. As well as the Supreme award, the Smiths also collected the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Nutrient Management Award, the Massey University Discovery Award, PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award and the Otago Regional Council Sustainable Resource Management Award.
BFEA judges described Jane and Blair as incredibly driven individuals who continue to challenge themselves to meet their personal and business objectives.
The Smiths, who are still in the early stages of their farming career, have demonstrated excellent care of the environment in parallel with the wise use of fertiliser based on a very good understanding of soil, animal and pasture requirements.
The couple has three young children and is second generation farmers. They farm 9000 stock units on three farms, including 230ha 'Newhaven' at Five Forks. This farm is home to the Newhaven Perendale Stud started by Jane's parents, David and Robyn Ruddenklau, in 1972. Newhaven Farms Ltd also farms 200ha at Danseys Pass and 1100ha 'Blairgowrie Run', near Five Forks.
The home block and Danseys Pass farms are used largely for intensive sheep production while Blairgowrie is run mostly as a cattle breeding and finishing unit. Some sheep are also farmed on Blairgowrie.
The sheep operation includes both commercial and stud sheep. BFEA judges said sheep production levels were impressive with lambing percentages (survival to sale) of 162% to 168% in the last three seasons. Lamb carcase weights average 16.5 to 17.5kg.
Newhaven is a leading Perendale stud, and rams from the stud sire over 300,000 lambs in New Zealand each year. A Perendale-Texel stud was also formed in 2009.
The cattle enterprise is based on 370 Angus cows. Progeny from this herd is finished but finishing cattle are treated as flexible stock units in times of drought.
Up to 400 dairy cows are grazed each winter. Cows are grazed in mobs of 50 and shifted twice a day to minimise the risk of pugging or compaction damage.
Newhaven is beautifully planted in shelter belts established by Jane's parents. Blair and Jane continue to plant Blairgowrie with shelterbelts and woodlots while also endeavouring to maintain and protect the tussock landscape.
Over 60,000 trees have been established on Newhaven and the other farms, often in harsh climatic conditions. Native Falcons and Wood Pigeons are living undisturbed on the hill country and fresh water crayfish have been introduced to contained waterways.
In 2011 the Smiths also planted 16ha of Douglas Fir for carbon sequestration and as part of a strategy to learn more about carbon credits and the ETS.
Judges said the Smiths show a high level of entrepreneurship in the new challenges they tackle and are very aware of what is happening globally and locally in the marketplace and their industry as a whole.
"They have surrounded themselves with a fantastic support network that should ensure the continuation of their success. Their sound financial management and an impressive formal business structure help them to get the best from the people in their business."
Judges said the Smiths are a highly enthusiastic and passionate couple who make full use of the technologies available to them.
They have also demonstrated a commendable commitment to industry and community organisations.
A field day will be held on Newhaven, with the date to be advised.