Judging process informative for all

Farmers and judges learn from each other during the lead-up to the announcement of winners in the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, the co-ordinator of judges for the Canterbury region says.

James Hoban, a member of the land management team at Environment Canterbury and a part-time Culverden farmer, said the competition provided valuable feedback to entrants, while judges always picked up ideas during their visits to the farms involved.

The winner of the Canterbury awards will be announced tomorrow night, March 20, from the six finalists selected from the nine entrants in this year's competition.

Between 15 and 20 judges in teams of two or four spent half a day on each property in the initial stages before Christmas.

The smaller finalist judging team of six then spent another half day on farms that made the final.

The greatest benefit for farmers was the free advice given by the judging team, which included such people as farm advisers, technical experts, environmentalists, farmers and previous winners.

''The advice is balanced and objective and is given in a safe, confidential process,'' Mr Hoban said.

''The feedback is very positive and useful. Written feedback is provided at the end. Judges spend a lot of time offering useful advice rather than just a commentary.''

There is never a problem to get judges, with many keen to return each year.

''I've been involved for four years and on every farm I've been on I have picked up something useful,'' Mr Hoban said.

Judges were not looking for model farms, he said, but were looking to see how each farmer made the most of their individual situation in social, environmental and financial areas.

The Farm Environment Awards were established in 1993 as a joint initiative between the Waikato Conservation Board and the Waikato Regional Council. In 1995 an independent trust was set up to administer them.

The awards are now held in 10 regions, with Taranaki joining this year.

The aim of the awards is to encourage other farmers to be more proactive in their resource management by providing them with role models for sustainable land management.

Craige and Roz Mackenzie, of Methven, last year's Canterbury winners, went on to take the national title.

- by Maureen Bishop