Katikati farmers take out top title

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Two Katikati farmers have taken out top honours at the 2014 Bay of Plenty Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Rick Burke and Jan Loney won the Supreme title at this year's awards, which were held at ASB Arena tonight.

The couple, who farm the 350ha Pukekauri Farms in the foothills of the Kaimai Ranges, also picked up a string of category awards.

Judges praised the couple's teamwork and excellent people skills, noting the outstanding plantings on riparian areas and marginal land that "look stunning and greatly enhance biodiversity".

They were also impressed with the excellent production being achieved on the rest of the farm.

Pukekauri is made up of 250ha owned by the Seddon Family Trust and a 50ha joint venture between the Seddon Family Trust and Mr Bourke, plus a further 50ha owned by Mr Bourke.

The combined properties are farmed by Mr Bourke and Ms Loney as one unit to provide an economic and sustainable block.

A total of 212ha is effective grazing land, with 110ha in covenanted mature native bush, wetlands and riparian planting and 28ha in plantation pines, redwoods and Cyprus lusitanica.

The couple run sheep, bull beef and dairy grazers, aiming to obtain the best possible return per kilogram of drymatter from an all-grass system.

Judges said their stock health was excellent and the farm was achieving above-average production for the region.

"Pastures were well maintained and there is real synergy between environmental planning and the excellent production of the farmed area.

"While relatively new to farming, Jan makes an important contribution to the operation, using her skills to improve business monitoring and goal setting."

Judges also noted sound financial management, good nutrient management and a "very strong community engagement".

"The focus is always back to people and people skills.

"There is strong teamwork between Rick and Jan."

Along with the Supreme title, the couple also picked up the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Award, WaterForce Integrated Management Award, Donaghys Farm Stewardship Award and a Bay of Plenty Regional Council Environmental Award 2.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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