Waikato farmer Johan van Ras says his family was shocked to win the Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards supreme award this month.
The Mackintoshes own and run White Rock Mains farm, a 1056ha sheep and dairy support property nestled against the hills at North Loburn, near Rangiora.
Their recent winner’s field day featured presentations from the local North Loburn Primary School, which has partnered with the Mackintoshes on Garden to Table and Predator-Free programmes.
Duncan Mackintosh told the field day attendees that community engagement is “top of the list” for the family.
“We’ve all got stories we can share and tell the wider community about the great work farming is doing throughout the whole country.”
Warning that disruption was coming fast in the form of “fake protein” and other synthetics, he said the crux of farming is engaging with the community, especially the children.
“Because if they’re not in on the story why would anyone else be?”
Tina Mackintosh said education is vital, whether that meant teaching kids a good work ethic or seeing them free-range roaming with their urban friends.
“It’s the joy of trying to sneak up on a rabbit, throwing shite at each other or the pure joy of camping out in a paddock with no adults in tow.”
Tina warned that the connections between urban and rural New Zealand are dying, with 86% of the population now urban.
“It’s time to educate and share with our urban kids. I say kids because I believe that’s where it truly needs to start from. We need to create a generational change in attitude, that farming is not a dirty word but a diverse, robust and transparent career path to produce and harvest food that comes with a story of integrity and excellence.”
She urged other farmers to open their gates and share their stories.
Seeing where they're at
The Mackintoshes said entering the awards was a good opportunity to get a feel for where they are sitting.
“We’re open to ideas and being challenged. While the environmental side of things is important, the awards are not just looking at the environmental footprint of the farm. It’s the whole system, so there’s much more to what you can learn from the judges.”
The judges said: “Duncan & Tina Mackintosh impressed us with their strong focus on their animals, people and land. They demonstrate a willingness to adapt and change as new information becomes available and maintain excellent monitoring of stock, land and business.”
On the way to the Canterbury regional award the couple also won the Bayleys People in Primary Sector Award for their focus on the people side of the business, the Beef + Lamb NZ Livestock Farm Award for long-term land and animal stewardship, the Massey University Innovation Award for demonstrating Kiwi ingenuity for solving a problem or pursuing a new opportunity, and the Predator Free NZ Trust award for successful control of animal predators to achieve native biodiversity outcomes.
The 11 regional supreme winners will be profiled at the Ballance Farm Environment Awards national final in Hamilton, on June 6.
However, Mackintosh says it is also paramount that farmers – as a collective – have zero tolerance of any farming practice that puts the transparency and integrity of the sector at risk.
She says farmers should not be afraid to offer to help to those having trouble meeting this standard.
“And I equally challenge the urban community to accept these invitations, to walk on a farm with an open mind, to engage in individual critical thinking and if you’re still not sure, ask.”
In making the award, the judges praised the Macintoshs’ determination and hard work, particularly in helping their environment prosper.
The couple recently established a 91ha QEII covenant, now being fenced off and wilding pines destroyed.
The judges were also impressed with the Mackintoshs’ strong community spirit and their involvement in many social initiatives. They noted that North Loburn School was just one of the beneficiaries of their generosity of spirit through the Garden to Table programme, which Tina supports.
This programme involves children growing, harvesting, cooking and eating their own produce.
Snapshot of farm
A fifth generation of the Mackintosh family is now actively involved in White Rock Mains.
The property was originally bought by Duncan Mackintosh’s forebears in 1909.
A Charollais sheep stud has been established on the property in the name of Duncan and Tina’s 11-year-old daughter Casey, who expects to offer rams for sale for the 2020 breeding season.
The property ranges from 115m to 400m above sea level, from flat to easy hill country with three district soil types and receives 950 to 1100mm rainfall a year.
It winters 1900 MA commercial ewes, 700 2-tooth commercial ewes, 900 commercial hoggets, and 510 R1 heifers.
The Mackintoshs have embraced technology in the form of three automated weather stations with integrated soil moisture sensors placed around the farm. Soil testing has been done on all paddocks and reticulated stock water is supplied to 98% of the farm. The tanks have sensors linked to phone alerts if water levels are low.
White Rock Mains is also a focus farm and development partner for the farm data management company FarmIQ.
The Mackintoshs also run a rodeo bull breeding company under the 8 Seconds Bucking Bull brand, noting that many of the bulls in their herd have never been ridden because “an extensive AI programme with genetics imported from US, Canada and Australia have created a headache for the NZ cowboys”.
The farm also hosts the district’s dog trialling ground, home of the Loburn Collie Club.