On the right path, award finalist says

James Crutchley stands in his kale crop at Palmerston. Photo supplied.
James Crutchley stands in his kale crop at Palmerston. Photo supplied.
Maniototo farmer David Crutchley is a finalist in the inaugural Green Agriculture Innovation Awards.

Mr Crutchley, of Shortlands Station, near Kyeburn, has won the BioAg Pastoral award, which looks at all aspects of pastoral and livestock farming, excluding dairy.

Judges looked at herd health, pasture and soil management and the effects the farming system had on the land resources for the future.

The Crutchley family have made changes in recent years to their farming operation, which previously was not sustainable.

A threefold approach was taken, encompassing changes to the sheep and fertiliser policies and becoming involved in a business mentoring programme.

Mr Crutchley said the award confirmed the path they were on. It was nice to be acknowledged as the journey could be ''quite lonely''.

He and his wife Glenis farm at Shortlands, with son Charles, while their other son James farms at Palmerston. Daughter Zara is a registered valuer.

Mr Crutchley was ''hugely indebted'' to what Bill Thompson, of Healthy Soils, told him when he turned up at the property in 2008 and was able to describe what was happening to the soil and why they were not growing grass.

Shortlands Station's economic and management parameters have been benchmarked to the South Island hill-country sector.

Gross farm income at Shortlands Station in 2012-13 was $99.96/stock unit, compared with $81.04 for the sector average and $105.31 in 2013-14 compared with $85.08.

Mr Crutchley was happy to do presentations and share the knowledge he had picked up.

''We're not contaminating anything here but we're getting our production going,'' he said.

Lincoln University student Genevieve Steven, of Timaru, who won the Viafos Youth Award, is the youngest contender for the overall award.

Ms Steven (20) is in her second year at Lincoln, on a DairyNZ scholarship, studying biochemistry, animal sciences, plant, sciences, soil science and management papers.

Her ultimate goal was a move into biological farming. She wanted to be an educator and adviser to farmers already using biological farming principles, but also taking the concept to those who did not know much about it.

''I enjoy the challenge of changing people's perceptions,'' she said.

Association of Biological Farmers spokeswoman Nicole Masters said the awards had attracted strong nominations across all categories, which was evidence biological farming had gained a ''strong foothold'' in New Zealand.

The supreme winner will be announced in Rotorua on August 6.


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