With the Interim Report on NZ Climate Change progress just released and a zoom meeting of 40 global leaders being called by President Joe Biden over two days (April 22-23) to discuss urgent climate change action, it was very relevant for Prime Minister Ardern to visit a Norsewood farm to witness a fairly radical way of dairying called Regenerative Farming.
Charlotte and Russell Heald have been practising this form of farming for four years and their success reached the ears of the PM, who wanted to see for herself.
On Thursday, April 22, she and a contingent of Ministers – Damien O'Connor, David Clark, Meka Whaitiri – and Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty visited for nearly two hours.
Also present were representatives of Toha NZ whose function among others is to promote regenerative farming under the banner of Calm the Farm, the chairman of DairyNZ Jim van der Poel and a number of local farmers who had experience of this system.
Altogether, including local families and friends, a total of 100 met outside the cowshed on a glorious autumn day and talked farming.
Centre of it was Ardern questioning and listening at length to the Healds' story and then with other representatives of regenerative farming.
A late arrival precluded a planned farm tour but after afternoon tea all the Ministers, Toha NZ representatives and local farmers formed a circle on haybales to discuss the practicality of expanding the practice NZ-wide.
With its target to reduce almost completely the use of artificial fertilisers, especially nitrogen, by intercropping up to nine plants, each one providing soil nutrients and carefully rotating stock for maximum benefit to both the environment and to profitability, regenerative farming has a strong appeal as a way of reducing river and air pollution.
Prime Minister Ardern said her four years in Government had taught her we have to do things better and need to shine a light on this and other opportunities to bring about agricultural change.
Strategies to promote regenerative farming were discussed. Ardern favoured farmers working with those who had tried it in partnerships with DairyNZ and Fonterra, as well as Toha NZ, which has already received accolades from farmers it has helped get started.
She said this was an opportunity to tackle our global imprint while building an export trade to feed a hungry world and promote New Zealand's brand.
■ Next Week – The Heald Regeneration Farming Story.