Having a group of people of differing expertise visit her farm and offer advice was extremely valuable for 2017 Horizons Ballance Farm Environment Awards finalist Nic Leary.

She's in charge of Tarata Farm - a leased 500ha, 4400-stock-unit sheep and beef property west of Raetihi - run in conjunction with another family property.

"The judging panel that visited Tarata included two farmers - two different farmers in terms of the type of property they farm, where they farm and what they focused on - as well as a rural banker and a regional council land management person. Given their backgrounds it was a well-balanced critique from those four people," she said.

The judges were focused on profitability and productivity as well as sustainability.


"The awards are an opportunity to get a well-rounded insight into what you're doing and what you're not doing."

Entries are now open for the 2018 Ballance Farm Environment Awards. Farmers and growers can enter online at www.bfea.org.nz or contact regional co-ordinator Stella Rackham at horizons@bfea.org.nz or 0274 197 587.

All farmers and horticulturists, including orchardists, vegetable growers and viticulturists, are eligible to enter until September 15.

First-round judging will take place from October 9, with finalists announced on November 15. After another round of judging, award winners and the overall supreme winner will be announced at a gala dinner in Palmerston North on March 15.

Tarata is the sheep breeding unit for the nearby Leary family's home farm, Wairiri, run by Ms Leary's brother, Dan. Tarata's cattle policy is flexible, depending on the season and market.

A physiotherapist by trade, Ms Leary has been farming since 2014. The family's initial lease period for Tarata has been extended to May 2024.

She said the judging panel looked at a wide range of issues, such as land use, stock policies, water systems, fencing of waterways, subdivision plans and planting.

"It was a great opportunity for me to discuss geographically challenging areas - unstable, broken ground or ground prone to flooding. We had some robust discussion on the hillside about what we should be concentrating on and where to get the tools and resources to help."


Because Tarata is a lease property the judges stayed realistic in terms of what the Learys could do.

"Their feedback and comments were specific to a lease arrangement. Specific and valuable."

She was reassured by being acknowedged at the awards dinner.

"It was personally encouraging, not just for myself, but for our family business to be acknowledged for the steps we've already taken on the farm and to be commended for what we are doing well."

The awards dinner also showcased other properties and she said it left a lot for farmers to aspire to.

"It was really good to see what we do showcased in a positive way. We're really passionate about what we're doing but there is so much not-so-positive press around farming."