Tuesday, 16 July 2013 08:34

New take on pasture and plate

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The phrase "from the farm to the customer" is often heard in agricultural circles, but Silver Fern Farms is turning that philosophy on its head.

In the 2013 Lincoln University Foundation South Island Farmer of the year competition it is sponsoring a 'plate to pasture' prize for the best consumer-focused business.

The Silver Fern Farms prize is one of four special categories brought into the competition for the first time this year. Each special prize highlights a key aspects of modern primary production industries and that farming is an international business that includes essential skills such as consumer awareness, human resources management, use of technology and management of resources. The winner of each special category will win $5000. The overall winner received a $20,000 travel grant to visit and/or study farming operations overseas.

Keith Cooper, chief executive of Silver Fern Farms, says the company was keen to support an award recognising the need for a strong consumer focus in agricultural production.

"We believe agriculture can better connect with consumers so the best story of the care, passion and hard work our sector puts into creating world-leading brands is told. It is why we have a plate to pasture market focused strategy to take advantage of the greater gains to be made in this space.

"It is increasingly important that from the very beginning of agricultural processes – selecting the right breeding animal, giving the right feed, growing the right varieties, handling stock or product in the right way – producers know their consumer, and are thinking about how their product will look, feel taste and present to them.

"This award is about rewarding those farmers who have turned their processes around and prioritise consumer needs and work backwards from there to change their farming practices to suit."

Foundation chair Ben Todhunter says the Lincoln South Island Farmer of the Year competition is about recognising innovation, leadership and excellence in farming, in all its aspects and, more importantly, creating a process where others in the industry can learn from the experiences of the finalists and eventual winner.

The four new special category prizes are:
1) The Silver Fern Farms 'plate to pasture' award for consumer focus
2) The BNZ award for best human resource management
3) The Lincoln University award for technology and innovation
4) The Resource Use efficiency award for excellence in efficient use of resources.

Nominations and/or entries for the South Island Farmer of the Year competition for 2013 are open now and will close on August 1, 2013. Judging will occur during September/October with the finals night in November.

The overall winner will have demonstrated that they are in the top echelon of agricultural producers, that the farm business is sustainable and that they have developed, or are in the process of developing, a new approach or approaches, either inside or beyond the farm gate, that will enhance their farming activity.

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