Harkaway Farm

A dairy farm serious about environmental sustainability

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For David and Adrienne Hopkins, managing their dairy farm operation in an environmentally sustainable manner is a key driver.

Harkaway is a 246 hectare farm located half way between Waverley and Wanganui, which the Hopkins converted to dairying two decades ago. With 234 hectares available for dairying, it now runs a herd of just under 700 cows.

David’s farming philosophy is simple. To change the grass protein into milk protein without supplements. “We like it to be self-contained. For example, we restrict the use of supplements and while we use a very small amount of maize, we don’t use palm kernel – the cows select their own food in the pasture.”

Recently David began planting a half acre artificial wetland at the head of the catchment to maintain the quality of the farm’s water.

“It will take a while to develop. The wetland is designed to mitigate against phosphate, nitrogen and sediment leeching into waterways. Cows’ urine is high in nitrogen and unless it gets taken up by plants, it ends up in the water. Water conservation and pollution is something the industry is taking very seriously.

“We want the water going out of the farm to be as good as it is when it comes in from the springs. We have beautiful water coming out of the ground here and feel obliged to share that with our neighbours. It might sound simplistic, but that’s the reality,” says David.

This and other environmental sustainability measures have seen Harkaway Farm become one of six finalists from the expansive Horizons region in the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, with the winners to be announced in March 2016.

They entered on the encouragement of their sharemilkers, a couple who, according to David, are very enthusiastic about sustainable farming and who handle the day-to-day management of the farm.

Neither David nor Adrienne were farmers when they met and married, but have “progressed through the industry” since purchasing Harkaway and developing it from bare land.

The Hopkins look to Moore Stephens Markhams Wanganui principal, Nicola Gibbons for business advice, believing that her understanding of farm systems and commerce is a good balance for them.

“Nicola is not just a figures person, she has a total understanding of farming and our business,” says David. “She grasps things very quickly and isn’t afraid to give us advice on how we might do things smarter. We value her input highly and involve her in planning the farm’s long-term future.”

Recently, the Wanganui firm hosted the accountancy group’s national annual directors’ conference and Nicola was keen to take her colleagues to the farm.  “We wanted to show our city colleagues the reality of the environmental challenges that face dairy farmers.”

David, pictured in the tee shirt above, did this graphically, challenging the gumbooted accountants and their families, to race to fill 200 litre drums with pulled grass. “Every day the cows eat the equivalent of 700 200-litre drums of grass. This goes in one end of the cow and out the other. How do we mitigate the environmental damage and pollution? It was important for them to understand those challenges in our industry and what we are doing about them.”

The visit was a roaring success, according to Nicola. “Everyone had some fun but came away with a far better appreciation of a successful rural business. Even down to how effective an electric fence can be,” she adds with a smile.

Harkaway Farm is a finalist in the Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Published Summer 2015

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