The Future of Farming was the focus of a day seminar I recently attended in Carterton, Wairarapa.
Speakers were mainly farmers and demonstrated the diversity of farm production and the range of backgrounds of farmers these days.
Event highlight was speaker Dan Steele who farms the Blue Duck Station in the Whanganui area, combining stock breeding, Manuka honey production, wetland conservation, hunting, and hosting 8000 tourists a year.
A true rural character, a modern-day Barry Crump, his is a compelling story of battling the elements to develop an incredibly diverse and highly productive farming unit.
Early in his speech Dan suggested better farming practice could be achieved by retiring 20 per cent of your farm, and getting rid of 20 per cent of your stock. This would prove a common view throughout the speakers.
The rationale being that marginal pieces of land which require farmers' extra time and resources to tame actually cost farmers more than they are set do gain, and to counter the increased cost burden created by that marginal land, they then tend to over-stock by 20 per cent to lift revenue to meet the costs.
These numbers are generally driven with increased productivity in mind, and the assumption of higher yields. But by reducing redundant costs and associated stock numbers, farmers will improve the quality of production and consequently a higher yield.
Many might not realise that GWRC employs Land Management Advisors who work with farmers to develop free Farm Environment Plans. These operate in the Wairarapa, Porirua and in the Kapiti Coast. We have one dedicated to the Kapiti and Porirua area.
These farming plans are seen as a tool to support sustainable land use practices.
While originating back in the 1950s, in 2011 GWRC undertook a pilot project working with intensive land users west of Carterton. That pilot initially worked with four dairy farmers and revolved around developing a comprehensive farm plan that targeted water quality improvements and good management practice.
Since its inception 60 Plans have been produced, including eight on the Kapiti Coast. The success is that it is the landowner wanting to engage with GWRC in a non-regulatory manner.
GWRC also has a Farming Advisory Committee, which I am on, though previously the Kapiti councillor had not been a member. These resources are supporting farmers to focus on shaping their farming future.