Rotorua station award winner

Catherine & John Ford

Rotorua station award winner

Sunlive Media Release, 28 Februrary 2015
One of the largest farms in the Rotorua district, a 1240 ha sheep and beef property, has won the supreme title in the 2015 Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Highlands Station and its owners John and Catherine Ford took out the title at last night’s awards dinner at Mount Maunganui.

John and Catherine Ford for Highlands Station Rotorua are winners of the supreme title in the 2015 Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

The Highlands Station team are from the left: Colin Mead, John and Catherine Ford, Bronwyn Edwards, George Bulled, Kevin Kelly, and Daniel Hodson.

The couple also won the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award and Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Award, all presented at a gala dinner attended by 190 guests where Dr Warren Parker, CEO of Scion in Rotorua was the guest speaker.

In accepting the award, John and Catherine paid tribute their staff Daniel Hodson, Bronwyn Edwards, Kevin Kelly, Colin Mead, Catherine and John Ford, and George Bulled.

“We are the owners and take the financial risk but our staff produce the results which make it viable.”

Award judges say the Ford’s effective and outstanding staff management programme is among the reasons for their win.

“Highlands Station and its owners have a strong family history of commitment to agriculture, and an excellent understanding of water dynamics, both above and below the ground and appropriate use and management of land, based on its capabilities and catchment.”

Farming on Highland station isn’t easy. It stands on an old rhyolite dome formed about 250,000 years ago.

Its steep but thanks to careful grazing management, there is no erosion. Rainfall run-off is controlled up 200 detention dams John has built and 320 ha of native bush has been retired leaving 992ha in pasture for the grazing of sheep and young bulls.

John’s father Allen began its development in 1931 by grazing part of the land and in 1932 paid £800 for about 2500 acres as a ballot block.

The Tarawera eruption of 1886 had flattened much of the bush. When Allen bought the farm most of it was covered in fern and scrub, which he burnt, cleared and gradually turned into pasture.

Other winners announced last night are: Phillipa Wright and Stephen Kenna of KWKIWI Limited orchards at Ongare Point, north of Katikati who took the Zespri Kiwifruit Orchard Award, the Massey Innovation Award and the Hill Laboratories Harvest Award.

Three dairy farms were also among the winners. Corrie and Donna Smit of Corona Farms Limited Edgecumbe won the LIC Dairy Farm Award. Geoff or Gerda Bradly of Nga Rakau Farm, Manawahe won the Waterforce Integrated Management Award and Tataiwhetu Trust Tataiwhetu Farms Ltd of Ruatoki won the Donaghy Farm Stewardship Award. Te Kaha 14B2 Trustees, Tkg/OPAC Hamama Kiwifruit Orchard at Te Kaha, won the PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award. The two Bay of Plenty Regional Council Awards went to dairy farmers Tony and Margo Cairns of Oturoa Properties Ltd Rotorua and Geoff and Bill Dobbs of Katikati.

John and Catherine Ford will host a field day at Highlands Station on Tuesday March 31 and the public is welcome to attend. For more information contact Kirsten Winter, regional coordinator for the Balance Farm Environment Awards phone 025 721 244 or email