The wine industry was never Stuart Dudley’s first career choice. The viticulturist for Villa Maria Wines in Marlborough had his mindset on research or forensics, having completed a degree in Genetics and Biochemistry.
Several strong entries from ‘traditional’ sheep and beef farms are this year joined by a Marlborough mussel farm, a Canterbury saffron grower, a South Canterbury organic dairy, a Central Otago gourmet fruit producer and an organic red meat farm in Southland.
And for the first time a West Coast farm has entered. There are 12 South Island entries.
Lincoln University Foundation chairman Ben Todhunter says he is delighted to see strong entries for the third year in a row.
“Early in the life of this competition it was a challenge to get entries. But as the prestige of the competition has grown and word has spread about its value to entrants and the agriculture industry generally, numbers have built up.
“We deliberately aim for quality of entrants rather than quantity, so our criteria for farming excellence set a high bar. We will maintain this level of high standard entries to further enhance the reputation of the competition.”
Regional judges will shortly visit each farm; finalists will be announced mid-October and the finals will be at Lincoln University on November 18.
All entrants get a free expert evaluation of their farm business as a part of the judging. A field day at the property of the overall winner will be held early 2016.
The winner receives a $20,000 study/travel grant. Finalists can also win one of four $5000 special category prizes: the Silver Fern Farms red meat producer ‘Plate to Pasture’ award for best consumer awareness; the Farmlands award for best resource management; the AGSTAFF award for human resource management; and the Lincoln University award for innovation and technology.
“The Lincoln University Foundation was formed to encourage excellence in farm business practice,” Todhunter says.
“This annual competition is a great vehicle for that. It rewards farming leadership and innovation, and uses the finals night and winner’s field day, plus on-line presentations, to make that knowledge available to the wider farming community.”
Ashley and Shonelle Townsend, Balclutha, Otago: located near the East Otago coast on land 30-200m above sea level; a sheep farm with some beef cattle.
Clearwater Mussels (John Young et al), Marlborough Sounds: greenshell mussel producer with 90 farms 2.5-80ha, processing for food and pharmaceutical markets.
Clearwater’s Organic Dairy Company (Bryan and Jackie Clearwater), Peel Forest, South Canterbury: a self-contained organic dairy processing milk to yoghurt and distributing nationwide.
Coleridge Downs Ltd (Tony and Pam Plunkett), Rakaia Gorge, Canterbury: high quality red meat (beef, sheep, deer) on four properties -- hard hill country to intensively farmed flats.
Kilbrannan Farm (Paul and Tracey Ruddenklau), Te Anau, Southland: organic Biogro sheep and beef farm on flat-rolling country near the Takitimu Ranges.
Limestone Hills (Dan and Bridget Studholme), Waimate District, South Canterbury: a two-property enterprise on hill, rolling and flat country with sheep, beef cattle and dairy heifers.
Lindis Crossing Station (Adam and Annabel Spiers), Wanaka, Central Otago: four properties, including one near Ashburton, finishing lamb, venison, prime beef and bull beef.
New Zealand Gourmet (Matthew Tyrrell), Roxburgh, Central Otago: gourmet summer fruit producer exporting cherries and blueberries to Asia, Middle East and Australia.
Raft Creek Farm (Stephen Wright), Hokitika, Westland: a Landcorp farm, Raft Creek mostly breeds deer, supplying breeding stags to other West Coast deer properties; surplus deer is finished on the property for venison. Beef cattle and lambs are also finished.
Richard and Annabelle Subtil, Omarama, North Otago: primarily a sheep and beef farm plus small-scale hydro and tourism operations and science reserves; DOC and QE2 covenants are held.
Saffron Valley (Cheryl Rault and Ray Hughes), Greta Valley, North Canterbury: certified organic saffron producer and exporter.
Shortlands Station (David Crutchley) Ranfurly, Central Otago: two properties (21,838ha) producing mainly sheep meat and some beef and forestry.