Wairarapa farmers Michael and Karen Williams believe the vast majority of farmers do look after their stock and they want to leave their land in better shape for the next generation.
Michael and Karen are the supreme winners of the 2013 Greater Wellington Ballance Farm Environment Awards who, along with 24 others, attended an Environmental Leadership Forum in Wellington.
Drystock farmers Michael and Karen Williams, who have three young children, have been farming in their own right since 2009.
Karen says the experience was quite inspirational.
“The speakers were outstanding and it was an exciting opportunity for us to meet with others from our industry and to exchange views with politicians from different political persuasions.”
Karen says the forum increased their motivation to spread the sustainability message to other farmers in their region and to the urban community.
“There are some very good farming stories that we need to tell.
“We all share a passion for farming and the same environmental ethos, and we enjoyed talking to farmers from other regions about some of the challenges they face when it comes to environmental sustainability.”
The couple were among some of New Zealand’s leading sheep and beef farmers who had the opportunity to sharpen their leadership skills at the forum, facilitated by the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust and funded by Beef + Lamb New Zealand.
All the sheep and beef farmers taking part were past-winners of the Ballance Farm Environment Awards.
Acting NZFE chair Simon Saunders says the May 13-15 forum was designed to equip the participants with the skills needed to become effective environmental leaders for the sheep and beef industry.
“They are all outstanding sheep and beef farmers who are passionate about environmental sustainability.
“The aim of the forum is to help them develop their leadership skills so that they can go back to their communities and promote positive change.”
The forum featured an excellent line-up of speakers and gave participants the chance to network with politicians, government officials and other farming leaders.
Beef + Lamb New Zealand chief executive officer Dr Scott Champion says the organisation is very pleased to be working with the NZFE Trust to provide development opportunities for New Zealand’s sheep and beef producers.
“Sustainable development has always been part of the sheep and beef sector’s ethos and this programme builds upon our support for the Ballance Farm Environment Awards.
“More and more pressure is coming on resources, particularly freshwater, and communities are facing the dual issues of economic development and sustainability.”
He says it’s important to have leaders who can tell their story and provide a drystock perspective within those discussions.
“We are looking to develop the programme further to ensure sheep and beef farmers have the information and skills they need to advocate for our sector.”
This is the second year Beef + Lamb New Zealand and the NZFE Trust have held the forum. Last year’s event was also highly successful.
“Building environmental leadership is a key part of NZFE Trust’s strategy,” says Simon.
“The Trust values its relationship with Beef + Lamb New Zealand and we applaud its foresight and proactive approach towards developing leaders in the agricultural sector.”