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Published: 2005-02-11 00:00:00

Farmers entering the Farm Environment Awards are choosing sustainable farming methods for good business reasons, this week’s Environment Waikato Environment Committee meeting heard.

Waikato Awards Co-ordinator Phillipa Crequer said there had been significant trends towards more sustainable farming practices in the 13 years the awards had been running in the Waikato. Farmers said they were able to find solutions which upheld the bottom line but were also good for the land, stock and their own ease of management.

In some cases their decisions arose from environmental pressures such as drought, wind or riverbank erosion. They also had financial reasons for expansion, intensification or trying new ventures and stock types.

Often actions to reduce environmental risk provided more financial security. Fencing waterways allowed stock to be grazed more intensively but still safely and meant one couple could secure their valuable river flats from erosion and plant specialised crops. Many had protected features such as bush, water, marshes and historic sites for no personal financial benefit but they had gained pride and satisfaction.

Farmers sought information from many sources - family members, professionals and institutions, councils, QEII Trust, DoC and consultants.

“These farmers are influenced by their families and others who share their values. They ‘yearn to learn’ and do things better, getting information from networks and advisors to help them think strategically. Profitability often increases as a result, allowing re-investment back into the property, ”she said.

Trust chairman Bill Garland said common themes included difficult property, and getting advice from others on erosion and biodiversity, which strengthened their relationship to the land. Many had QEII covenants.

Environment Waikato Chairman Jenni Vernon said it was important to get the message distributed further that business and the environment went hand in hand.