Wednesday, 07 April 2021 11:55

Passion for environment leads to title win

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
Central Hawke's Bay farmers Linda and Evan Potter say they are humbled to be named this year's Ballance Farm Environment Award winners. Central Hawke's Bay farmers Linda and Evan Potter say they are humbled to be named this year's Ballance Farm Environment Award winners.

Newly-crowned national ambassadors for sustainable farming, Evan and Linda Potter say they are very humbled to win this year's Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

The Potters, who farm 5,000 stock on their 720 hectare hill country property at Waipapa, Central Hawke's Bay, plan to continue their good work on biodiversity.

About 22% of their farm is retired into mainly QEII National Trust covenants.

Evan Potter told Rural News that they plan to continue fencing and retiring more land in partnership with QEII and under council covenants.

"That's the way we think... it makes sense to be good custodians of the land," he says.

Other initiatives on the Potter farm include an annual pole planting programme for shade and erosion control, planting of natives, regular possum, cat and pest control, and wetland and riparian planting.

The Potters, 2020 East Coast Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) winners, were chosen national ambassadors and winners of the Gordon Stephenson Trophy.

The announcement was made recently at the National Sustainability Showcase at Te Papa in Wellington, attended by all of the regional supreme winners.

Their focus on solutions and their understanding of the need to maintain sound financial performance to fund environmental projects was a stand out for the national judging panel.

The judges noted that the Potters presented well-articulated, positive and holistic views about New Zealand and its future as a food and fibre producer on the international stage. They both have an excellent understanding of on and off farm challenges faced by the sector. Along with impressive biodiversiyt they have also diversified their income stream from livestock across sheep, beef and deer, farmed for velvet.

The Potters purchased Waipapa in 1997 and set to work on transforming what they describe as a blank canvas, into an aesthetically pleasing and productive business producing venison, velvet, wool, sheep and beef.

The 5,000 stock units are divided into thirds of sheep, beet cattle, and deer. Evan says this diversity mitigates risk.

With wool prices at record lows, wool prices are now "an animal health cost". Venison sales remain the most profitable part of the business.

The Potters chose to enter the awards because of their passion for the environment and to share their story.

"We want to get around the table and have an impact and not just be by-standers. We realised we have a story to share and hope that it can inspire others on their journey," said Evan.

Both Linda and Evan have been heavily involved with their local community and have developed a strong partnership with their regional council.

Chair of the national judging panel, Diane Kidd, says the Potter's demonstrate a sound understanding of industry metrics around key topics of climate change and reducing greenhouse gases.

"They certainly 'walk the talk' with their environmental projects and sustainability initiatives. They are role models as early adopters of change.

"Evan & Linda have an obvious love of farming and a pride in the successful business they have built together over the last 23 years. They are practical and sustainable and tell a very good story that many others will learn from.

"We wish them well in the year ahead as the national ambassadors for sustainable farming and growing and as recipients of the prestigious Gordon Stephenson Trophy."

The Ballance Farm Environment Awards are run by the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust, a charity dedicated to promoting leadership in environmental excellence and encouraging the uptake of management practices which both protect and enhance the environment and add value to farming businesses and communities.

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