Award-winning farm practices celebrated at field day

Ballance Farm Environment Award Horizons Regional Supreme Award 2024 winners Stewart Dairylands showed off their impressive on-farm practices at a field day recently.

Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) is an annual awards programme celebrating and promoting sustainable land management and good practices on New Zealand farms. Horizons Regional Council is a sponsor of the regional awards, which celebrate the best sustainable farm industry practices from entrants across the Manawatū-Whanganui region.
Farm owners Dave, Jan, Debbie and James Stewart head the impressive operation, taking home an impressive eight out of 13 regional awards. The core of their business is their 350-hectare dairy operation, producing more than 1.7 million bottles of milk for Fonterra annually.
Horizons land and partnerships manager and BFEA judge Grant Cooper says these field days are a great chance for award winners to share their hard work and expertise with peers and industry partners.
“Stewart Dairylands were well-deserved winners of the supreme award this year. Horizons have been working with the family and local community groups for many years to fence off and riparian plant multiple kilometres of Stoney Creek, which runs through the property and its surrounds.
“With some funding assistance from Horizons through the Manawatū River Leaders’ Accord, plus investment from local landowners, Palmerston North City Council and community groups to the tune of $245,000, a dedicated area of the Stewart’s farm was able to be transformed into a biodiversity haven.
“This work helps to protect nearby land and reduce erosion, reduce nutrient runoff into the stream from effluent, keep stock out of the waterway, and increase biodiversity of native species in the area.
James Stewart says with help from their community, the family have consistently exceeded their goal of planting 1000 natives annually.
“The sheer amount of work we’ve been able to achieve here is a true testament to the community spirit – our neighbours, Hiwinui School friends and family, and local community groups like Stoney Creek Catchment Care Group, Environment Network Manawatū and NZ Landcare Trust have all been essential partners in this effort.
“With this help we’ve managed to plant out more than 2km of the creek area over about 4 years. With around 15,000 trees total planted here, it’s completely transformed this area for the benefit of the local biodiversity. That’s really exciting to see and be a part of.”
Mr Cooper says the calibre of entries this year was outstanding, and narrowing down to the winners was a difficult choice.
“Horizons supports what these awards stand for – it’s a great chance for farmers and growers in our region to connect and share their knowledge and practices with each other, and celebrate innovation in the industry.
“This year’s entries were highly competitive and the judging panel went through a lot of deliberation to get here. The Stewarts should be extremely proud of their impressive work,” he says.
The Stewarts’ award application, titled ‘Listening to the Land’, explored their holistic, environment-first approach to their farming practices, says Dave Stewart.
“People come and go but the land remains. We don’t own it, but we pay for the privilege to look after it, and now it’s our turn.”
Debbie and Jan Stewart run the agritourism side of the business, Hiwinui Estate, which offers personal tours of their farm to domestic and international visitors.
“We enjoy taking people around the farm and showing them what we do here. Most people are very interested and impressed and are keen to learn more!”
To learn more about the Ballance Farm Environment Awards and enter, visit their website at