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Leading lights in organics

The Press (Christchurch, New Zealand) Feature Article. 14 December 2000 by Howard Keene

Tim Chamberlain and Rose Donaghy have been identified as leading lights in the development of organic farming by winning the Lincoln University Foundation/Rabobank Farmer of the Year competition.

The theme of this year's competition was organic farming, and the five finalists were "top calibre", said Lincoln University Foundation chairman John Nimmo.

The competition included on-farm visits by the judges, and public presentations by the candidates.

Mr Chamberlain and Ms Donaghy farm 160ha of Bio-Gro certified land at Lakeside near Leeston.

Second place went to Andrew and Mirie Brooker , who farm 452ha at Aylesbury, 180ha of which is certified Bio-Gro. Peter and Joy McLeod, who farm 8ha at West Melton, were placed third.

In his presentation Mr Chamberlain said going organic had been the most challenging thing he had done.

The couple's interest in organics began after an overseas trip in the early 1980s. When they started, they thought they would be limited to cereals and animal-based products, but now they grow a range of vegetables and herbs as well as cereals and livestock.

Mr Chamberlain said marketing was a vital part of farming, but that was especially so with organic farming. His focus is on the local market and selling directly to consumers.

Building contacts had taken time for their diverse range of crops. They spent a lot of time talking with customers and prospective customers to ensure that markets were maintained and new opportunities arose.

The couple won an overseas travel scholarship worth $7500.

Mr Nimmo said each year the competition had a different theme.

This year with organics, "we really wanted to identify some leadership in this farming discipline.

He said the finalists always had certain basic traits. They understood their land and its capabilities, they had clear visions and set goals, they had a strong focus on soil and feeding management, they sought advice when required, and they used technology when appropriate.

"Doing the fundamentals right is a prerequisite for success."

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Copyright Timothy P. Chamberlain. Page last modified on 12 June, 2004