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Wednesday, 28 April 2021 12:55

Producing food for many generations

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
Tatuanui farmer Johan van Ras (right) with his father Richard on their farm. Tatuanui farmer Johan van Ras (right) with his father Richard on their farm.

Waikato farmer Johan van Ras says his family was shocked to win the Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards supreme award this month.

He says they were up against other farming businesses that have done some pretty amazing things on their property.

“We were quite shocked to win the supreme award because there were some exceptional finalists. We are humbled and stoked,” he told Dairy News.

The 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 purchased in 2010 after previously leasing the farm for six years. The farm supplies Tatua.

The family are proud of the farm they call home and are constantly looking to improve their environmental impact and balance sustainability with profitability.

Johan says they have always farmed with the environment and animal health as a priority.

“We look after or environment so that we can produce food for future generations to come.

“There is a lot more focus on sustainability now and on our farm, we doing the best we can.”

The judges said that the van Ras family 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 four other awards, the Ballance Agri-Nutrients soil management award, DairyNZ sustainability and stewardship award, Water-Force integrated management award and Synlait future leaders award.

A field day will be held at Waiorongomai Valley Farms on Friday May 14.

This year the Waikato BFEA included a new award category for Catchment Groups. The 2021 winners of this award are Pūniu River Car (PRC).

Established in 2015 to enable local hapū to be involved in the restoration of the Pūniu River catchment, PRC works 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.

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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