Polson, Bilodeau Agri-people of Year

July 4, 2014

Ballance Agri-Nutrients Chief Executive, Larry Bilodeau, was last night named 2014 Vodafone/Federated Farmers Agri Businessperson of the Year while the late Alistair Polson was named 2014 Agri Personality for 2014.

“With Te Radar as the perfect Master of Ceremonies, Federated Farmers was honoured to not only recognise all major agricultural award winners, but the two people who have emerged first among equals,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President whose term comes to an end at the conclusion of the Federation’s 2014 conference.

“It was bittersweet that we honoured the memory and outstanding contribution made by the late great Alistair Polson in making him 2014 Agri Personality of the Year.

“What made the night poignant was that his wife Bo accepted the Award on his behalf. Alistair was not only a great President of the Federation but defined selfless public service.

“Our 2014 Vodafone/Federated Farmers Agri Businessperson is Ballance Agri-Nutrients Chief Executive Larry Bilodeau.

“While the judging is done separate of us, I wish to pay tribute to the outstanding calibre New Zealand has in our rich agribusiness and agriservices environment. They were Dr. Paul Livingstone QSO of TB Free/OspriNZ, Lindy Nelson of the Agri Woman Development Trust and Farmlands Co-operative Society Ltd Chief Executive, Brent Esler.

“All are outstanding leaders.

“Larry, as Chief Executive of New Zealand’s largest fertiliser supplier, has led the co-operative’s evolution from one focused on fertiliser to one meeting the complete farm nutrient needs of our primary industries.

“We have truly outstanding talent in farming and these awards recognise and celebrate them. Something Te Radar noted as the primary industries need to recognise success more,” Mr Wills concluded.

Giving the award to Alistair Polson posthumously is a reminder of the importance of honouring and showing our appreciation of  people when they’re alive.

I hope it gives some comfort to his family to know how much his contribution to agriculture, his community and New Zealand, are valued.

Larry Bilodeau might not be well known outside farming circles but his leadership in Ballance has been outstanding.

 


Alistair Polson dies aged 58

June 6, 2014

Agriculture envoy and former Federated Farmers president Alistair Polson has died.

“Alistair was a great farmer and a truly great New Zealander who has been taken from us way too soon,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Bo and their family. 

“Bo and Alistair formed the most amazing and loving partnership and while Alistair was called overseas as Special Agricultural Trade Envoy, she kept the farm and family running.

“Where do you start with someone who gave so unstintingly of himself?  It is telling that despite Bo and Alistair’s home being inundated by the 2004 floods they put community before self.

“Alistair has been an office holder at most levels of Federated Farmers of New Zealand, serving as Wanganui provincial president and later National President between 1999 and 2002.

“Alistair has also served as a director of both the Waitotara Meat Company, PPCS (now Silver Fern Farms) and the Agriculture Industry Training Organisation. He has also served on the New Zealand Veterinary Council and the then National Animal Welfare Advisory Board.

“With a strong environmental ethos Alistair chaired the NZ Landcare Trust for seven years and in 2012, he became chairman of the New Zealand Farm Environment Awards Trust. 

“Chairing the New Zealand Farm Environment Awards Trust was something I know Alistair was deeply proud of.  It assured him the next generation of farmers cared for the land every bit as much as he did.

“Alistair himself won the Grasslands Memorial Trust Award for sustained improvement of pastures and sheep breeds in Wanganui hill country.  He was a past Nuffield Scholar and would later chair the New Zealand Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust too.

“In 2004 he was appointed New Zealand Special Agricultural Trade Envoy by the Hon Phil Goff and continued in that role to 2013 under the Hon Tim Groser.

“In Argentina, for the World Farmers Organisation earlier this year, South American delegates mentioned Alistair’s name with reverence.  He was a noble man of true mana who gave his all for New Zealand.

“Alistair was a giant and his loss touches us all greatly,” Mr Wills concluded.

The Farm Environment Trust also pays tribute:

The New Zealand Farm Environment Trust has lost a truly inspirational leader.

Alistair Polson died on Thursday, June 5, following a short illness.

The well-known Wanganui farmer was a highly respected member of the farming community. He had extensive experience in business management and farming politics, serving as national president of Federated Farmers from 1999 to 2002. In 2004 he was appointed Special Agricultural Trade Envoy for New Zealand, and in 2012 he was elected chairman of the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust (NZFE).

NZFE acting chairman Simon Saunders says Mr Polson will be greatly missed by the Trust and by the wider farming community and he extends his sincere sympathy to Bo Polson and their children, Nick, Guy and Sarah.

“They have shared Alistair with so many and the loss of such a wonderful husband and father will be devastating, their family plans and dreams for the future have been so sadly taken from them.”

“Alistair made a massive contribution to New Zealand agriculture and he was a passionate and inspirational advocate for New Zealand farming. The Trust and New Zealand agriculture in general have lost a valued leader and a great friend.”

Mr Polson took over the chairmanship of NZFE in October 2012.

Prior to joining the Trust he was a member of the judging panel for the National Winner award in the Ballance Farm Environment Awards. He was a key supporter of the concept that good environmental practice and profitable farming go hand in hand.

“Alistair jumped straight into the role of chairman and he led the organisation with considerable professionalism and a huge amount of enthusiasm,” Mr Saunders says.

“He quickly grasped what the Trust was all about and his proven leadership ability was a great asset for the Trust and the Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Mr Saunders says Mr Polson had a huge amount of passion for agriculture and a warm and approachable personality.

“Alistair loved nothing more than to be able to discuss and promote all the great attributes of our agricultural industry”

Mr Polson’s achievements in agriculture were extensive. He was a former director or committee member of a number of rural-based organisations, including AgITO, the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, Veterinary Council of New Zealand and NZ Landcare Trust.

An agricultural science graduate from Massey University and a Nuffield Scholar, he also held company directorships with two major meat companies.

Mr Polson farmed in the Mangamahu Valley, near Wanganui.

“The wheel has turned completely since the days when the hero in the valley was the farmer who chopped down as much bush and scrub as possible. Now the heroes are the farmers who are retiring native bush, fencing waterways and planting trees for shade, shelter and erosion control.” – Alistair Polson.

Farming and New Zealand are the richer from his contributions and the poorer for his too-early death.


Rural round-up

November 9, 2013

Central Plains Water gets the green light from shareholders:

Thirteen years after it was first mooted, Central Plains Water Ltd (CPWL) Board have given approval for the giant scheme to become a reality after 90% of Stage I shareholders and over 72% of Stage II and III committed to the 60,000ha scheme.

For the scheme to progress it needed commitment for 18,000h of Stage I and 26,000 ha of Stage II and III. Both thresholds have been met fully by existing shareholders.

Chief executive Derek Crombie said that achieving this level of commitment from shareholders is testimony to the phenomenal dedication and hard work put in by so many over the years.

“I’m sure that there were many times when the hurdles seemed too great, so now all that is required is for the board to confirm our construction programme and to allocate shares,which should happen in the next week. To get this high level of uptake for the scheme from the existing shareholders is a fantastic result. This commitment ensures that the ownership remains local. We set a pretty high bar but are now delighted to say that we have managed to clear it,” he said. . .

First water released in irrigation scheme – Tony Benny:

The first water from the Rangitata South irrigation scheme is now available to some farmers as commissioning of the project, that will eventually irrigate 16,000 hectares between the Rangitata and Orari rivers and out to the coast, begins.
One of the project’s seven storage ponds on the south side of the Rangitata, near Arundel, is now 90 per cent full and water has been released into irrigation races to allow leak testing, part of a commissioning process that will take up to four months.

The seven ponds will hold a total of 16 million cubic metres of water, drawn from the Rangitata River when it’s in flood – a flow of more than 110 cumecs, enough to provide 30 days of irrigation storage. Farmer shareholders are also required to have an additional week of storage in their own ponds. . . .

Food safety forum to come to NZ for first time:

A number of food scares, including the botulism scare caused by Fonterra, has inspired the organisers of the Global Food Safety Forum to hold it in New Zealand for the first time.

“NZ has been caught out on a number of occasions and the dialogue and interaction will be focused on preventing further issues,” food integrity consultant Dr Helen Darling said.

The conference, to be attended by the 160 delegates from China, US and Australia, will look at emerging threats and ways to address them before they become a problem she said. . .

Challenges ahead in Ballance awards:

BALLANCE AWARDS organiser, the New Zealand Farm Environment (NZFE) Trust, is gearing up for another big year as it strives to help farmers face the challenges of the future.

NZFE chairman Alistair Polson said at the annual meeting that 2013 was a successful year for the trust’s flagship enterprise, the Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA). Regional and national BFEA competitions, ceremonies and field days are popular and well supported.

Another highlight for the trust was the addition of the Taranaki region for 2014, bringing the number of regions involved in the BFEA competition to 10. “We hope to include the remaining regions in future.” . . .

Nelson peony venture blossoming – Tracy Neal:

Growing “big blousy flowers” for America is far from Georgia Richards’ early ambition to grow culinary herbs, but the peony venture is proving highly suited to the quiet block of Dovedale land she farms with partner Dot Kettle.

The business is blossoming in a new direction beyond export grade flowers, to one that utilises the benefits of peonies in soaps, skin creams and even tea blends.

The pair have just launched Dove River Peonies soaps and creams, which like many new creations, was driven by need. In their case it was the lack of any good skin products for their sons’ eczema that drove them to create a product specially for sensitive skins. With the help of Nelson firm Global Soap, the soap range was born combining powdered peony root in an olive oil base for sensitive skin, or citrus blends for an “indulgent” soap. . .

It’s blooming time for quality fruit – Farming Unlocked:

Regular readers of my blog will know that I do not particularly enjoy our cold winters. However as spring envelops us, the weather warms up and the sun’s rays soak into my skin and prise something open from within. My heart feels somehow warmer and I feel invigorated and alive.

This is mirrored in my surroundings. At this time of year, no matter which window I look out, I can see a mass of white apple blossom, contrasted against the lush, green of tender new growth. I find myself in an almost constant state of distraction, drawn to gaze out at the breathtaking beauty with a sense of wonderment and respect.

I find that I cannot adequately put into words the magnificent performance that the orchard puts forward at this time of year, so I will try to show it in pictures instead. . .


Hero in the valley

November 4, 2012

Quote of the day:

“The wheel has turned completely since the days when the hero in the valley was the farmer who chopped down as much bush and scrub as possible. Now the heroes are the farmers who are retiring native bush, fencing waterways and planting trees for shade, shelter and erosion control.”. . .

“We live in a community, so we’ve got to get it right for the people we share that community with, the markets we deal with and for ourselves. If we don’t farm sustainably, we don’t have a business.” Alistair Polson.


Rural round-up

November 1, 2012

Wool’s future far from woolly:

Farmers are counting down the days to when major shareholdings in New Zealand Wool Services International (NZWSI) will be on-sold by the receivers.

“In a green-aware age, bales of wool should be flying out of our woolsheds. As they are not, is why management consultants could describe the wool industry as a ‘problem child’,” says Jeanette Maxwell, Federated Farmers Meat & Fibre chairperson. . .

New Head of Farm Environment Trust Ready for Challenge:

Well-known Wanganui farmer Alistair Polson has been elected chairperson of the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust.

He takes over from North Waikato farmer Jim Cotman who has stepped down after six years in the role.

Mr Polson’s extensive experience in farming politics and business management includes serving as national president of Federated Farmers from 1999 to 2002.

Since 2004 he has been Special Agricultural Trade Envoy for New Zealand. He is a former director or committee member of a number of rural-based organisations, including AgITO, the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, Veterinary Council of New Zealand and NZ Landcare Trust. . .

Deep in the current – Bruce Munro:

Graeme Martin has been described as everything from a compassionate, principled, visionary genius to an inflexible, stubborn, demanding taskmaster. Bruce Munro examines pieces of the puzzle that make up the influential, complex and soon to retire chief executive of the Otago Regional Council.

“I shan’t forget a very large fist waved very close to my face” Graeme Martin says.

He is sitting in a comfortable chair in a corner office with city, harbour and peninsula views.

Three hundred and sixty kilometres and 45 years separate him from what happened that day in the Addington railway workshops.

But there is no denying the edge to his voice.

“A fist waved in my face because I was working too hard.” . . .

Winemaker celebrates 50 years:

The staff lunchroom might not seem an obvious stop on a tour of a picturesque winery. But Villa Maria’s is immaculate – largely due to the writing on its wall. 

One side of the lunchroom at the company’s winery in Mangere, Auckland, is dominated by information about its lean manufacturing programme, Achieving Continuous Excellence (ACE), running in the company for the past two years. It’s brought efficiencies to the business, but benefits in the physical environment are also obvious. Nothing – not even in the caf – is out of place.

It’s a point of pride for founder Sir George Fistonich, but also gives an insight into how the company, which celebrates its 50th vintage this year, has continued to grow in a tough industry. . .

Soil biology is key to saving saving fertility – Peter Watson:

Complacency is costing us some of our best soils, says ecologist and educator Nicole Masters.

New Zealand is losing 11 tonnes of topsoil per hectare a year, more than 10 times the global average, she said during a recent Beef + Lamb New Zealand field day held at Claire Parkes and Simon Vincent’s farm near Wakefield, and attended by about 35 farmers.

“We live in one of the most blessed soil environments in the world.

“We are fertile, we have good carbon and beautiful rainfall, but we are losing all this topsoil and it’s not sustainable.” . .

Convert to sustainability – Tim Cronshaw:

A farmer with nearly 9000 deer who once never put much thought into improving the environment on his farm, has become a fully converted believer.

Graham Carr estimates he has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars during the past four years fencing off waterways and putting in settling ponds, so the water coming off his farm at Peel Forest Estate in South Canterbury is crystal clear.

Carr has built up one of the largest deer herds in the country, since emigrating to New Zealand 25 years ago from Britain, where he came from a joinery background. . .

A2 Corp to take control of NZ marketing, enter North America:

 A2 Corp, which markets milk products with a protein variant claimed to have health benefits, wants to directly enter the New Zealand market and is looking to expand into North America and some European nations having wrapped up a strategic review to speed up growth.

The alternative-market listed company will shift its focus to a number of opportunities in a bid to ramp up growth, including directly marketing into New Zealand, it said in a statement. A2 plans to expand rapidly include entering markets in North America, German, France Italy and Spain via joint ventures, using local contract manufacturers or investing in regional processing, it said. . .


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