Friday, 21 June 2024 08:54

High country farmers win top sustainability award

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
Hamish (L) and Simon Guild. Hamish (L) and Simon Guild.

Hamish and Simon Guild of High Peak Station in Canterbury are the 2024 National Ambassadors for Sustainable Farming and Growing and recipients of the Gordon Stephenson Trophy.

This was announced last night at the National Sustainability Showcase at Claudelands Event Centre in Hamilton.

High Peak Station has traditional farm roots, however it has diversified in recent years to include a wide range of income streams.

The 3,760ha (3,450ha effective) property is managed by an eight-way partnership that runs four different businesses. The partnership comprises the Guilds – James, Anna, Hamish, Gemma, Simon and Kate – and Amelia and Tom Dunbar.

There’s a strong focus on adding value to all the enterprises, with the team striving toward high-end products and experiences. High Peak Station’s income is derived from sheep, cattle, deer, honey and tourism. The separate entities operate in synergy with each family member bringing different strengths to the table, which has ensured a sustainable and robust business.

The Guild and Dunbar families won the Canterbury Regional Supreme Award in March, with Hamish and Simon representing the family in the national judging process.

The judging process for the Gordon Stephenson Trophy includes on-farm judging as well as a panel interview, with the trophy recipients displaying a combination of an exemplar farming operation – from a financial, social and environmental perspective – and the ability to articulate informed responses and insightful views on a range of pan-sector topics.

Chair of the National Judging Panel, Karen Williams noted the exceptionally high calibre of Regional Supreme Winners, and said it was a privilege to hear their stories.

“All of the stories were magnificent, and as a farmer you feel really proud listening to them explain what they do and why,” says Williams.

“Hamish and Simon gave articulate, succinct and well thought-out responses to all of our questions, and demonstrated a strong customer and market focus, with particular awareness of global markets and how our products are seen off shore,” said Williams.

“They have a strong focus on succession, with the idea of ‘making the pie bigger’ to ensure everyone in the family finds a niche and a place to operate together.”

Williams noted that the family’s approach to climate resilience stood out, particularly as they have experienced floods followed by drought. “They recognise that science will deliver some of the tools to help build resilience, such as adopting more weather tolerant pasture species; they have explored the vulnerabilities to their business in detail; and they have adjusted or enhanced infrastructure to ensure they’re adaptable to climate change and severe weather impacts.”

The National Judging Panel also commended the Guilds for their creative approach to health and wellbeing within their team and their involvement in the wider community. “This is a diverse, multi-generational farming family with lots of strings to their bow,” says Williams.

Alongside a theme of multi-generational farming businesses and ‘succession on show’ within this year’s Regional Supreme Winners, Williams noted there was strong commitment to enhancing biodiversity, a clear desire to reduce GHG emissions, and an emphasis on the value of telling our story as New Zealand food and fibre producers.

The National Sustainability Showcase event at Claudelands celebrated each of the ten Ballance Farm Environment Awards Regional Supreme Winners from across the country. Hosted by the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust, the event is held annually as the pinnacle of the BFEA programme, and connects primary industry representatives from across the sector.

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