"If you look after the land and you look after the environment, it looks after you."

That's the motto for dairy farmer Andrew Hardie, who's recently been recognised for his environmental efforts, being named the winner of the Horizons Region Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

For Hardie and his wife Helen Long, who milk 700 cows on the outskirts of Dannevirke, investing in the environment is beneficial for their business.

"One of the most important ways for us to farm is obviously to make a profit and to make a living.

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"It is a very good lifestyle to be a dairy farmer, it's hard work, but if you value the environment and you look after it, it rewards you by giving back a sustainable income," Hardie said.

The couple owned 428 hectares and described the farm as a labour of love. Ten years ago they implemented once a day milking and haven't looked back.

"It's going very well, it's a very economic, low inputs system, but very resilient in all payouts and low intensity farming means it's quite bio diverse and also very kind on the environment," Hardie said.

The competition was closely fought, with farmers showcasing how they're doing their bit to protect the environment, but the duo proved hard to beat.

"One of the main reasons the judges gave us citations is because of the diversity on the farm. We've got a lot of riparian areas, a lot of pine areas, we've got retired native areas, we've got intensive dairy farm areas and also incorporates a lot of runoff area as well," Hardie said.

The judges said the couple had gone above and beyond standard farming practices.

Through a stand-off pad and effluent control, they have reduced nitrate leaching and sediment flow.

"When the weather is really bad we use [the stand off pad] to stand the cows off on.

"We've got 200mm of woodchip so this helps capture the effluent of the cows and the soluble effluent like the phosphates drain down to our holding pond, so it really minimises the effect of having animals grazing on this land in adverse weather."

These kind of practices were already paying off.

"We very pleased to have our local [Horizons] regional council test our water just off the edge of the farm here and the last three to four readings have been 0.002 mg/L or less nitrates in the water.

"This reflects all the good work done by us and our neighbours up stream," Hardie said.

Another tick of approval was the 4.8 million litre effluent pond.

"Helen and I got a bit carried away with the digger," he laughed. "But it gives us a lot more latitude. This is about 2.5 times the requirement under regulation," which he said, helped if they wanted to develop another standing pad.

The couple have embarked on intensive riparian planting, introducing over 1000 native trees with the help of Horizons Regional Council. They have also retired an area of geological significance and taken responsibility for protecting the waterways on their farm.

"With two rivers passing through our land we realise our responsibility goes way beyond the borders of the farm," said Long.

They will go up against 10 other regional winners when they compete for the prestigious national Ballance Farm Environment Award later this year.

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