Kaeo bull farmers Jeff Martin and Helen Linssen have held the title of Northland supreme winners of the Ballance Farm Environment Awards for much longer than expected.
It's not that they are greedy. Last year's awards were cancelled because of Covid-19.
They would like to pass on the title to new winners after their two-year stint and want potential entrants to come forward.
Entries are now open for the 2021 awards.
Linssen said the pandemic had thrown a lot of events into disarray and she is hoping the good work of the awards could continue to encourage farmers in their environmental work.
"As current winners, part of our role is to encourage other businesses to enter the awards, even if they don't think they're doing anything extraordinary.
"A lot of the time, people are already doing great things. They just don't realise what they're doing is great. Entering these awards made us realise how much of what we were doing was taking us in the right direction,'' she said.
Linssen said the best part of the awards was the collegial atmosphere of award winners.
"We all have the opportunity to become members of the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust and as alumni we encourage farmers and growers to enter the awards.''
She said sharing the journey with each other had been inspirational.
"We have learned so much,'' she said.
Regional winners stay connected through social media and members champion the success of others.
"We often get ideas from each other that we can apply to our own farming business.''
Linssen said online farming records and maps were becoming more sophisticated and detailed and these were being adapted to also record biodiversity on the farm.
"That was an idea from one of our colleagues in the Waikato and we have taken that on board to record on the farm map where native flora and fauna are being seen on the property to measure biodiversity.''
Some differences between regions have been highlighted in discussions.
"We tend to have native trees popping up on our property without having to plant them. Farmers in other regions don't have that luxury,'' she said.
Linssen said winning the supreme award did not mean that what they were doing was perfect and they had continued to use the knowledge gained to improve their business.
The couple farm friesian bulls on three properties near Kaeo. The properties are not connected but share the same river catchment. They are helped by staff member Matt McGregor.
The farms comprise 450ha, of which 272ha is in farmland, 140ha is in bush and the rest in riparian plantings.
"We used to run heavier bulls but now we only farm 100 to 350kg bulls, which has made a big difference to the amount of pugging of the paddocks,'' Linssen said.
The bulls are all sold on to be finished by other farmers.
Work on the farm is concentrated on preparing for spring.
"We are currently speeding up the rotation from 60 days to 30 days to give them more grass.''
Linssen said the bulls were kept in lots of small mobs, which helped to keep the kikuyu-dominant pasture well groomed.
"We don't have to mulch and the pasture swaps between kikuyu in the summer and ryegrass through the winter.''
Linssen said the award process was not about winning. "It's actually more about the journey. The more we learn about looking after the environment, the more we are encouraged to incorporate it into our farming practices.
"I would encourage anyone to take part.''
All farmers and horticulturists, including orchardists, vegetable growers and viticulturists, within the geographical area covered by the Northland Regional Council can enter online through the www.bfea.org.nz website or contact regional coordinator Ellie Ball.
Entries are open until October 15 with the first round of judging scheduled in November.
Visit nzfeawards.org.nz for more information.