Entering the Ballance Farm Environment Awards opened many doors for Fraser and Katherine McGougan, who say the ongoing benefits to their business are fantastic with community recognition of their hard work making them proud to be dairy farmers.

“To all those, from any sector, who are considering entering the awards, we would highly recommend giving it a go with the positives, gained from entering, far exceeding the challenges. As your farming journey is never complete, the knowledge and experience that you gain from these awards and the process involved only serves to continue to propel you forward,” says Fraser who with Katherine was the 2019 Bay of Plenty Ballance Farm Environment Awards Regional Supreme Award winner.

The couple, owners of Willowvale Farms Ltd, milk 420 cows on 150 hectares (136ha effective) of mainly flat land in the Opouriao Valley, Taneatua, Eastern Bay of Plenty and Fraser is also a DairyNZ Climate Change Ambassador.

The awards are held in regions throughout the country and by entering, farmers and growers have the opportunity for their businesses to be evaluated by a team of highly respected and experienced peers and agribusiness professionals. Constructive advice and feedback is given in an informal setting, with visits followed by a report offering commendations and recommendations.

“Katherine and I have found the whole awards process amazing. It’s easy to enter and has a relaxed and informative judging process where we continued to learn as we progressed through the competition.

“We were surrounded by a great group of people from fellow competitors to alumni and industry professionals, and the support and encouragement from all has been second to none. We found like-minded performance and environmentally focused farmers who have helped us to learn more about sustainable farming practices in a positive setting.”

The McGougans’ endorsement for entering the awards is echoed by another former winner and current chair of the Bay of Plenty New Zealand Farm Environment Trust which runs the award, Matt Nelson.

“I strongly advocate for farmers and growers to consider entering the awards which are not so much a competition but a way to identify what people are doing well on their land and to provide a structured report on where things can be improved,” says Matt, who as Coach Road Orchard manager for BAYGOLD, was part of the team which won the supreme award in 2016 Bay of Plenty Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

“Rural life can be very lonely and through the awards and the trust we can surround people with other farmers and growers, including our alumni of previous winners, and rural professionals, to help acknowledge and support the great work they are already doing and support them in their on-going journey.

“By showcasing the winners both regionally and nationally, we can demonstrate to urban New Zealand how we are actually taking care of the environment and animals.”

The awards celebrate farmer and grower achievement and showcase good practice, enabling the sharing of positive farming and growing stories with all audiences.

The assessment considers the farm system including: animal and plant care, biodiversity, business health, climate, people and wellbeing, soil, water and waste management.


NZ Farm Environment Trust has announced two new initiatives for the 2021 BFEA programme; a new Catchment Group Award and partnership with Farmax to provide free Farmax analysis for every awards entrant.

The Catchment Group Award is supported by a new partnership between the NZ Farm Environment Trust and NZ Landcare Trust and is designed to showcase and celebrate the great work being done by catchment groups from all 11 regions in which the BFEA operate. With Farmax’s support this year, all award entrants will know their greenhouse gas emissions numbers and mitigation options thanks to the GHG and sequestration features in FARMAX 8.1.

Farmers, growers and catchment groups are encouraged to visit to find out more, enter or nominate an entrant into the Ballance Farm Environment Awards. Because of a small number of entries, the awards were not held in the Bay of Plenty last year but entries are now open for the 2021-2022 awards in all regions of New Zealand. To find out more go to: