Help offered to local farmers

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Farmers in the Waimakariri and Selwyn-Waihora zones are receiving help to prepare farm environment plans.
Environment Canterbury has been trialling a pilot scheme in the two water management zones to assist farmers who would otherwise ‘‘fall between the gaps’’.
Waimakariri zone manager Andrew Arps and Selwyn-Waihora zone manager Michaela Rees have been leading the initiative which has involved meeting with farmers one-on-one or in small groups to help them to develop a plan to meet their requirements.
‘‘There are some farmers who fall between the gaps because they’re not supported by an industry group,’’ Mr Arps says.
‘‘We recognise that farmers are running a business and there’s lots of other things to consider like health and safety, staff management and animal welfare, so we want to work alongside farmers.
‘‘By meeting with them one-on-one or in small groups we are able to get an impression of what the farmer is doing and we can tailor our support for what they need in their farm environment plan.’’
The scheme has only been going a month and around 120 farmers have been targeted across the two zones, with farms ranging in size from 50ha to 300ha. It is expected the scheme will eventually be introduced into other zones throughout the region.
‘‘There might be some hesitancy in engaging with the process, but we have found that those who do engage definitely see the benefits of going through the process and integrating it into their business plan,’’ Mr Arps says.
‘‘We are asking farmers to do something, but we are making sure they understand how it fits into the bigger picture. A big part of it is making sure the farmer is feeling supported and is comfortable with the discussion we are having with them.’’
Mr Arps says he can spend anything from half an hour to two-and-a-half hours with a farmer and meetings can be on the bonnet of the ute, round the kitchen table or in a wool shed or barn.
He says farm environment plans make good business sense from a marketing perspective, given that there is agreater interest from consumers into where food comes from, as well as being good for the environment.