‘Those awards made us very proud’

‘Those awards made us very proud’
Rod McKinnon connects the pumps at the effluent storage pond.

A strong interest in the environment and environmental sustainability, along with wanting to put a good dairy-farming story forward were key drivers for Rod and Sandra McKinnon entering the Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards.
Awarded the supreme award for the region, the couple also received awards for DairyNZ Sustainability and Stewardship, Miraka Farm Stewardship, WaterForce Integrated Management and the Waikato Regional Council Water Protection Award.
First time entrants in the competition, Rod says it has taken a lot for their success to finally sink in.
He says they would have been thrilled to come away with just one of the awards let alone take the regional supreme award home.
Passionate about the envionment, the couple were particularly thrilled to have won awards for sustainability and stewardship.
“You know, we’re doing everything that people tell us dairy farmers aren’t doing – that dairy farmers don’t care about the rivers. So winning those awards made us very proud.”
Rod believes it is important to get good farming stories out into the wider community and knows of many farmers who could enter the awards but are ‘apprehensive to put themselves out there’.
“I think our success will focus us on what we’re doing even more than we already were. Not that we look for reward, but when you get recognition for what you are doing environmentally it reinforces that commitment; that we’re doing the right thing and perhaps we’ll do even more than we had planned to do.”
The Matamata couple milk 375 cows off a milking platform of 150ha, from their 195ha farm, a property they have owned and loved for 26 years.
Rod tells the story that when he and Sandra bought the property, their first house was right out from the cow shed.
“I just started making everything look nice because it was like our backyard. It really just grew from there. It’s a lovely looking farm with native bush on it. We have a small stream that we fenced some years ago and in more recent times we’ve planted around it. Protecting that little stream has been important for us.”
Sandra, who is the assistant principal at Cambridge High School, has always been an active partner on the farm.

‘Those awards made us very proud’
Sandra McKinnon loads plants and seedlings to plant out while farm worker Kelly Tomlinson lends a hand planting near the stream on the Waikato property.

Rod says that as they have moved along in their farming journey Sandra has been very active in riparian planting and developed the farms environmental plan some years ago.
“It was something that we did together but her educational side made it a lot easier to develop some of the stuff that we have done. She has been very active in the planting and the organising of that side of our operation.”
A recent agreement with the Waikato Regional Council has seen some of the McKinnon’s land fenced off and retired, planting it to create wetland areas and bringing back some biodiversity to the area. Operating a well run farm, Rod says the farms sustainability is working.
“I live by the theory – ‘do it once and do it well’. We don’t milk huge numbers of cows. We more focus on things being better than more. If I am going to milk a cow I should milk a cow that is doing 500kgMS not two cows that are doing 250kgMS because the sustainability is so much easier.”
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