Business Rural Spring 2021

8 | Award-winner a reasoned voice for R ichard and Jess Dawkins have been named Marlborough Sheep and Beef Farmers of the Year. The couple entered the awards because they wanted to be critiqued by knowledgeable judges and benchmark their business against other top performers. “The competition is very well supported by spon- sors so we wanted to assist in showcasing sheep and beef farming in Marlborough,” Richard says. The process involved an on-farm presenta- tion and tour by five judges, who subsequently commented that the couple’s farming business was on a very sound financial footing, good animal performance, well-matched land use to land type and excellent community involvement. Richard is also Federated Farmers Meat and Wool rep for Marlborough. He says it was his father Chris who instilled in him the importance of the organisa- tion as a voice for farmers. “Dad always thought the concept of one organi- sation representing the rural sector on policy in each region was something valuable,” says Richard. It was not, however until Richard attended a local Federated Farmers meeting to speak about their property’s Cawthron Marlborough Environment Awards win and their Open Farm day, that he got involved himself. “Marlborough is quite a diverse province. We stretch from Kekerengu, up to the Marlborough Sounds and inland to Rai Valley. We represent members who are impacted by a wide array of legislation and compliances.” Whereas often the picture is presented that Federated Farmers and the district council see matters from opposite perspectives, Richard says in Marlborough this is not always the case, describing the council as open for engagement. “We had some robust discussion recently around proposed charges for permitted activity monitor- ing on farm, and in the end a logical conclusion was reached.” Periodically the Federated Farmers branch has a visit from rural councillors and staff who update the group on local policy development, and gather feedback on the farmer’s perspective. One of the key issues facing farmers is winter grazing. “As with every region, there’s going to be a broad monitoring process put in place by council to gauge how effectively each farm is managing stock through winter. The winter grazing legislation was postponed for twelve months so farmers need to be following best practice to show we can achieve the right outcomes without a heavy hand from the law.” RURAL PEOPLE » Richard Dawkins Significant changes to land use have also af- fected the viability of certain forms of farming in the region. In the last 30 years over 30,000 ha of once viable farmland has been converted to viticulture. “We also have forestry pushing on the steeper areas and residential encroachment so traditional farming systems are losing their scale here. This highlights the importance of the remaining farmers backing Feds and having their voices heard” Richard says his own farm, The Pyramid, 30km south-west of Blenheim in the Waihopai Valley, given the predominant hill in the middle, is ticking along nicely. A year ago he bought the stock, plant and machinery from his parents. “We are primarily a sheep breeding and finishing operation. This is complemented well with growing Jersey bulls for the dairy industry and fattening Friesians. Five years ago we purchased 187ha over the road which requires significant development. Si- multaneously, we have developed a 100ha vineyard on the original farm.” “One of our business strengths has always been diversification of land use and income, so the vineyard was a natural extension of that.” As for his role with Federated Farmers, Richard says he would certainly be keen to stay involved as long as he is enjoying it and adding value at a local level. To this end, he is receiving strong encourage- ment from the committee. “Being involved gives you strong networking to motivated people and access to a huge amount of knowledge. Giving back to the local community is also very rewarding” He’s also keen to see more inroads in narrow- ing the gap in understanding about what today’s modern farm management practices really look like in terms of environmental responsibility and sees Federated Farmers, as a lobbying group, also responsible for improving farmers’ social-license. “It’s about informing and promoting our good practices.” One way to do that is to open up the farm to visitors, something Richard has now done twice. “I thought we would get a bunch of farmers for a field day type event but we had visitors who had never been on a farm before, so it was a real eye-opener and a great opportunity to educate.” He’s proud too of the work being done locally to monitor water quality through forming a catchment group 12 months ago as an Incorporated Society. Backed with funding from council, the group has undertaken water-testing and weed-control meas- ures. As expected the Avon Valley water quality was top notch so a focus now is to enhance the area’s biodiversity. Jess and Richard Dawkins with daughters Rosalee and Ellie. Proud to support Richard Dawkins Locally owned & operated Paul 027 422 5893 | Phil 027 372 9864 | a member of Law Link Gascoigne Wicks LAWYERS We’re here when you need a good lawyer Gascoigne Wicks is proud to support Richard Dawkins. We offer a full range of legal services across the top of the South Island and beyond... 79 High Street, Blenheim | Ph: 03 578 4229 E: | Sue Russell DRIVING STRONG GENETIC GAIN THROUGH DNA PARENTAGE & GENOMICS SIL Flock 916 • Chris & Jane Earl • Scargill • North Canterbury 027 465 6612 or (03) 314 3841 • •