Looking after the people and the land

Tricia Macfarlane and some of the established plantings around the farm.
Tricia Macfarlane and some of the established plantings around the farm.
Pencarrow Farm is a unique property just minutes from an urban shopping centre. Not only is it picturesque but it is a highly productive and environmentally sound enterprise.

It must be, as it has just won five awards in the 2019 Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards - the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award, the DairyNZ Sustainability and Stewardship Award, the Environment Canterbury Water Quality Award, the Synlait Climate Stewardship Award and the Norwood Agri-business Management Award.

It is acknowledgement that owners Tricia and Andy Macfarlane, and contract milkers Viana and Brad Fallaver, are doing the right things.

FARMING CLOSE TO TOWN

The farm at Rundles Rd, on the northern outskirts of Ashburton, is surrounded by lifestyle blocks.

Many have popped up since Tricia and Andy bought the original farm 30 years ago.

Being close to town and having several close neighbours was an incentive to ''get things right'' on-farm.

Pencarrow Farm contract milkers Viana and Brad Fallaver with dog Flow, the inspiration behind...
Pencarrow Farm contract milkers Viana and Brad Fallaver with dog Flow, the inspiration behind their business name - Flow Dairies Ltd.
As a primary school teacher and farm consultant (respectively), the Macfarlanes have always had off-farm income to enable them to grow the farm size and infrastructure as land became available around them.

Converted to dairying in 2000, the farm now spans 263ha and has established plantings and native-tree shelter belts.

Viana and Brad, under their business Flow Dairies Ltd, are milking 780 A2 protein-proven cows.

They use a 50-bale rotary platform with automatic cup removers and Protrack, which automatically reads their tags and drafts cows.

The farm is supplied by Ashburton Lyndhurst irrigation scheme water, which is pressurised via pipeline to eliminate energy costs.

They use different spray irrigation methods across the farm, such as pop-up sprinklers under the trees, rotator boom, hard hose guns, K lines, a lateral and pivots, which use 60% less water than the original border dyke system.

The farm water storage pond is used for kayaking and ski boating and is a place to practise fishing.
The farm water storage pond is used for kayaking and ski boating and is a place to practise fishing.
A variety of tools and systems ensure their farm practices measure up.

Initiatives include electronic mapping of soil depth, precision soil testing, moisture monitoring with multiple probes, precision-spread fertiliser, precision placement of water and wastewater using variable rate irrigation on the pivots, dairy systems monitoring feed intake monitoring and other measurements.

They also have a large volume of above ground biomass (plantings), which are not recognised in biodiversity or carbon schemes, but which they hope might be one day.

PLANTINGS

The landscape of the farm is unlike a traditional dairy farm in Mid Canterbury.

They have trees that are up to 50 years old on neighbouring land that they bought.

Keeping the trees was part of their commitment to the former owners.

The landscape of the farm is unlike a traditional dairy farm, with fruit trees and aged trees on...
The landscape of the farm is unlike a traditional dairy farm, with fruit trees and aged trees on part of the farm.
''We planned an irrigation system around the trees,'' says Tricia.

There are mature trees and native plantings along farm lanes and corridors, and also around the milking shed.

Landscaping is included round the main farmhouses and staff cottages, which add to the privacy and shelter for staff living there.

They are full of the sound of birds.

''We are proud of our farm and aim to make it a desirable place to live and work,'' Tricia says.

''We have always strived to farm with an environmental focus,'' Andy says.

THE RIGHT PEOPLE

This has required good execution, as well as buy-in and support from the six managers or share-milkers they have worked with since 1989.

A motivation to enter the Ballance awards, 15 years after they won the Canterbury Supreme Award in 2003, was to re-benchmark their farming practices with others, under the management of Brad and Viana.

''The people we have with us on this journey are as important to us as the animals and the environment,'' says Tricia.

It is a compliment to the Fallavers, who have been managing and contract milking on the farm for five seasons.

The couple have two children, Charlotte (3) and Angus (9 months).

They employ three full-time staff, one part-time maintenance person and a calf-rearer on a fixed-term contract during the spring. All staff live on the farm.

''As employers recruiting staff, this is an amazing farm,'' Viana says.

''It's just 5km from town with all the amenities that provides, while being a great place to live and work.''

BUSINESS SUCCESS

Brad says having the same values as Tricia and Andy has helped them in their business growth.

As a food-production business, they want the property to reflect sound safety practices, meet compliance and environmental standards and be a clean and aesthetically pleasing environment.

''That's the product we are trying to create.''

Dairy farming is known for long days and long hours but the Fallavers wanted to change that with a family-friendly environment.

They run a five days on, two days off roster to ''create a better work/life balance'' for employees.

Their social responsibility mark in the Lead with Pride programme, organised through Synlait, scored 100% for their people management, employment and training.

Viana says they aspire to be a role-model dairy farm, doing the right things to look after the environment as well as all other aspects of the farming operation.

The Macfarlanes and Fallavers host workshops and education days with visits from schoolchildren, university students and international visitors.

They have an open-door policy for anyone wishing to understand dairy farm practices.

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