Otago sheep and beef farmers Steven and Kellie Nichol are this year’s National Ambassadors for Sustainable Farming and Growing, and recipients of the Gordon Stephenson Trophy.
The couple who farm Auldamor, a 1498ha inter-generational sheep and beef cattle operation at Clarks Junction, were presented with the title and the trophy at the National Sustainability Showcase held at Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington recently.
The judging process for the Gordon Stephenson Trophy includes on-farm judging as well as a panel interview. The judges noted that as well as running an exemplary farming operation – from a financial, social and environmental perspective – the Nichols had the ability to articulate informed responses and insightful views on a range of pan-sector topics.
Chair of the National Judging Panel, Dianne Kidd said that Steven, who sits on Beef + lamb New Zealand’s Farmer Council, and Kellie demonstrated that they will be excellent Ambassadors for the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust and are worthy recipients of the Gordon Stephenson Trophy.
“They articulated clear, intelligent and insightful responses to our questions demonstrating an ability to communicate often complex ideas and issues in an easy-to-understand manner. Combined with their on-farm judging experience we know they can and will ‘walk the talk’,” Kidd said.
Beef + Lamb New Zealand CEO Sam McIvor congratulated the couple and said they would be excellent ambassadors for the sheep and beef industry as well as the wider sector.
“Steven and Kellie have shown that they are outstanding custodians of the land who have balanced productivity and profitability with environmental protection and enhancement and community and industry involvement. They’re also able to articulate their story really well.”
Mr McIvor says it was particularly pleasing to see sheep and beef farmers were so well represented at this year’s Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA), winning four of the regional Supreme Winner Awards..
“This is a reflection of the extraordinary work sheep and beef farmers are doing throughout the country to protect their natural resources while producing top quality grass-fed red meat and generating export income.”
The Nichols farm, which is managed by Grant Bezett, has carbon and production forestry alongside the farm’s 4,500 ewes, 1,500 hoggets and 290 mixed-age beef cows which are grazed.
The couple is constantly evolving their farming business through diversification and adapting production systems while always considering their environmental impact.
Steven and Kellie have been focused on improving the farm’s sub-division and infrastructure and have put in place several initiatives to improve soil health. These include a no-till drilling programme which has contributed to improved pasture resilience, better yields and improved stock performance and animal health.
Shelterbelts and stands of forests have been planted, which have enhanced the farm’s biodiversity, and a significant fencing programme has helped protect native shrubland and waterways.
Steven is also very involved with the local community catchment group and is one of several local farmers participating in a greenhouse gas mitigation project that is primarily focused on reducing gross methane emissions.