Hawkes Bay farmers enjoy the prestigious Silver Fern Farms Farmer of the Year Awards



Hawkes Bay farmers took last night off to attend the prestigious Silver Fern Farms Farmer of the Year Awards at the Hawke's Bay Showgrounds.

Husband and wife team Hugh and Sharon Ritchie who run a farm on Drumpeel Rd in Otane were the big winners of the night taking top honours.

The couples operate a large-scale business that used the latest technology to optimise efficiency and profitability while maintaining a strong focus on sustainable farming and a passion for the environment.

Guests at the awards were treated to fine food and wine as part of a menu which was unaltered despite the power outage.

Also in attendance were Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule and guest speaker and All Black Sevens coach Sir Gordon Tietjens.

Patrick Crawshaw, a third year Lincoln University student, received the Lawson Robinson Hawke's Bay A&P Society Scholarship, which included $3000 toward his course fees. 

Hugh and Di McBain won The Pan Pac Hawke's Bay Farm Forester of the year award and The Laurie Dowling Memorial Award for outstanding contribution to agriculture in Hawke's Bay was awarded to Mike Barham. 

Napier hide employees may be left jobless after plans progress to mothball their plant


The recent purchase of meat processor Silver Fern Farms by the Lowe Corporation has meant many employees may now be out of a job.

Lowe Corporation will now process the majority of Silver Fern's North Island hides and have decided to mothball their Napier plant.

Lowe Corporation managing director Andy Lowe said 76 employees at the Napier plant were being consulted about the mothballing, planned for after the end of the peak kill season.

Staff would be offered redundancy where roles were not available to them in Lowe Corporations' Hastings plant or Tomoana Pelt Processors in Whakatu.

Mr Lowe said that they hoped to open again at the peak season next year.

Third time lucky for the top competitor at the East Coast Regional Final in Hastings


Sully Alsop will be representing the East Coast in the ANZ Young Farmer Contest Grand Final.

Mr Alsop was the top competitor over the weekend in the East Coast Regional Final in Hastings at the Hawke's Bay Showgrounds and Lindisfarne College.

"I'm relieved, more than anything," commented Mr Alsop after the big win on Saturday; he placed second and third in the past two Regional Finals.

Mr Alsop went home with a prize pack worth over $10,000 including cash, scholarships and products and services from ANZ, Lincoln University, Ravensdown, AGMARDT, Silver Fern Farms, Honda, Husqvarna and Vodafone.

Second place went to Bernie Cox, South Wairarapa Club, followed by James Greer, Tikokino Club, and Richard Cameron, South Wairarapa Club, in fourth.

Mr Alsop also won three out of four of the challenges: Lincoln University Agri-growth, AGMARDT Agri-business and Ravensdown Agri-skills.

Mr Greer took out the Silver Fern Farms Agri-sports Challenge.

The day started out well for Mr Alsop with a strong lead after a complex written exam, but it was the evening show question rounds that proved the most challenging.

"It's really hitting home how much studying is ahead of me," he said.

Mr Alsop commended the event organisers for their efforts; "They did a really good job of it this year. It was the best combination of practical challenges that I've seen at a Regional Final," he said.

Some of the challenges included erecting a bird scarer, walking on a barrel, hauling cement blocks on a sled they made out of branches and a fire safety module.

In preparation for the contest Mr Alsop relied on work colleagues and friends to study and improve his skills. "The contest pushes me to make the time to learn extra skills and theory that I don't already have," he commented.

Mr Alsop belongs to the Wairarapa Club and said he had a great contingent of club members out supporting him on the day.

The thirty year old works as an agribusiness consultant based out of Masterton and owns a farming business with his wife, Katie. He also holds a Bachelor of Applied Science in Farm Management.

Mr Alsop is the sixth Grand Finalist to be named and he will be joining six other Young Farmers from across the country 3-5 July in Christchurch at the Grand Final where over $300,000 in prizes is up for grabs.

Be sure to tune in to 'Road To The Young Farmer Final'. The series covers each of the seven Regional Finals and follows the seven top achievers who make it through to the Grand Final. Catch all the action starting Sunday 18th May, 9.30pm exclusively on TVNZ Heartland.

Local kids were out in full force to compete at the Hawkes Bay Showgrounds.


Local schools were out in full force over the weekend competing for the top spot at the East Coast AgriKidsNZ and TeenAg Regional Final in Hastings at the Hawke's Bay A&P Showgrounds.

Wainuioru Hillbillies, Jess Long, Bella Freeman and Brooke Robertson from Wainuioru School took home the top honour in the AgriKidsNZ competition and Gracies Boys, Jack Butterick and Andrew Baxter from Wairarapa College were the winning team in the TeenAg event.

The competitions test skills, strength and stamina while introducing youth to the fun side of agriculture. Primary and high school students from all walks of life are welcome to join in.

Rounding out the top three for AgriKidsNZ was MISsiles, Patrick Jolliffe, Ben Carter and Bailey Morris in second place from from Masterton Intermediate School and third place went to The Cow Shed Crew, Nick Barrow, Julie Barrow and Trudy Barrow from Ruahine School and Dannervirke High.

AgriKidsNZ is open to children 8-13 years of age and they compete in teams of three while the TeenAg competition calls for high school students 13-18 years old, competing in pairs.

"Another great day out with a brilliant amount of teams entered, 29 for TeenAg and 17 for AgriKidsNZ," commented Josie Hampton, AgriKidsNZ & TeenAg Project Leader. Several Regional Final events are nearing capacity which presents an exciting challenge for event organisers.

There was some fierce competition amongst the TeenAg competitors. Dannevirke Dynamic Duo, Daniel Thorstensen and Benjamin Telford from Dannervirke High School took home second place and in third was The Chicks, Lucy Collin and Megan Hassall from Iona College.

The competitions are structured into eight modules which can test anything and everything farm related. The top scoring seven teams continue through to the Race-Off challenge where contestants must work as a team and complete a series of tasks as fast as possible.

Top three teams from each Regional Final are invited to attend the 2014 Grand Final held in Christchurch, 3-5 July where they will battle it out for the national champion's title.

For more information head to

Wine educator gives her expert opinion on Hawkes Bays best.


One of the most respected wine educators in China will be conducting a five day tour of Hawkes Bays vineyards to taste what she calls real quality wines.

Fongyee Walker was appointed the Hawke's Bay Winegrowers Association's contractor to China earlier this year and will be promoting some of the Bay's best.

Ms Walker founded, and manages, Beijing-based Dragon Phoenix Consulting with her husband Edward Ragg and provides a valuable insight into the Chinese market which is hailed as the great new export market.

She said the Bay had a stunning diversity of wines and the near perfect 2013 and 2014 vintages would further find favour in a Chinese market seeking top class wines.

She also said that while Chinais large there has been a consolidation of the wine market with buyers seeking quality over quantity.

Ms Walker considers Hawke's Bay to be well placed to deliver what the Chinese market wants and while she is here she will visit the 17 wineries participating in the China Marketing programme as well as do a presentation as part of the EIT's winemaking and viticulture programme.

Napier will host a conference on irrigation and water storage in Hawkes Bay


A conference will be held by Irrigation New Zealand, Monday 7th April to 9th April, at the Napier War Memorial Conference Centre in Hawkes Bay.

The conference is being held as the debate around irrigation and water storage in New Zealand heats up.

This week a United Nations report on climate change predicted a drier and more volatile environment for farmers in New Zealand and for the second year in a row parts of the country are facing drought.

All of this points to the need to fast track water storage and invest in irrigation infrastructure, yet, at the same time TrustPower last week withdrew its funding in the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme in Hawkes Bay.

To hear more on the issues around irrigation you can register for the conference as a guest by contacting: Irrigation New Zealand's communications and media advisor Janine Holland on (0274) 604 940 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

There will be a media centre available at the Napier War Memorial Conference Centre where registration will also take place.

The conference will also launch the SMART irrigation website ( showcasing examples of responsible and sustainable irrigation, while outlining why, where and how we irrigate alongside why it is good for New Zealand.

A full programme can be found at;