Saturday, December 2, 2023

McKenzie takes up FAR watching brief

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A Mid Canterbury farmer is newest associate director on the FAR board.
Mid Canterbury farmer Angus McKenzie is looking forward to the opportunity to sit at the FAR board table as its newly appointed associate director.
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Mid Canterbury arable and livestock farmer Angus McKenzie has been appointed associate director of the Foundation for Arable Research.

McKenzie manages the family’s 1000ha Wairuna farm, a diverse cropping and livestock operation near the coast south of Ashburton.

Integrated with the cropping and small seed production system, the farm also runs a sheep and beef operation, lambing down a ewe flock, trading summer and winter lambs and taking in dairy grazers.

“It’s a pretty diverse operation with the focus on continuing to grow the rotational system that has been the way the family has farmed here while fine-tuning inputs and tillage and the integration of livestock into the arable system,” McKenzie said.

Alongside the farm operation, McKenzie also runs a contracting business.

“It keeps me pretty busy, but I have a great team around me here.”            

Adding to the on-farm business, McKenzie is looking forward to his new governance experience with the FAR board.    

“It looked like a good opportunity to learn about governance and be involved with the progressive industry organisation that FAR is.

“It’s also my specific farming interest so I expect I will learn quite a bit that I can put back into the industry.”    

As an associate director, McKenzie will observe the workings of the FAR board but does not have voting rights. 

“I’m not too sure it means I will be chasing a governance role in the future, but it is a really good opportunity to learn.”   

McKenzie attended Lincoln University, leaving with a Bachelor of Agriculture and a Master’s in management of agricultural systems. He was also the recipient of a Lincoln Future Leadership Scholarship. 

After Lincoln, he spent 18 months at FAR from 2014-2015 as part of its graduate programme, providing support for researchers.    

As a grower, he is actively involved with FAR and the wider arable industry.

He is also a member of the Hekeao Hinds Lowlands catchment group committee. 

As one of the leaders of a FAR Growers Leading Change (GLC) discussion group in his district focusing on soil quality, he has hosted a demonstration site of cultivation techniques on his farm and is an advocate of crop health being an indicator of soil health.   

McKenzie and his family have also led by example in terms of land stewardship, fencing off a lagoon on the farm where the Wairuna Drain meets the coast and restoring the area with native plantings. 

The area is a demonstration site for the New Zealand Landcare Trust managing wetlands as farm assets project. 

The lagoon is at the mouth of the Wairuna Drain, which used to be a swamp before the area was drained in the early 1900s. It was once the original boundary of Longbeach Estate at the time Longbeach landowner John Grigg tiled the swamp, transforming thousands of hectares between the Ashburton and Hinds Rivers from swamp into highly productive farmland.

“Our farm and everywhere around us was once a swamp so it makes sense to be managing wetlands as a farm asset as we have 23km of drains on the farm and most flow year-round,” McKenzie said.

The lagoon was fenced off with natives planted in the wetland 10 years ago with the plan being to move up the drain and establish a few more wetlands.

“When we first fenced off, we wanted a wetland and nice native area as quick as possible. 

“One of the biggest things I’ve learnt from the three-year [Landcare Trust demonstration] project is to let nature do a bit more work.”

McKenzie is keen to learn more about putting the right plants in the right place as he develops further wetlands, managing them as farm assets, transforming paddocks into fenced native areas.

“The wetlands objective is about biodiversity for birds, insects and water.

“We’re also a seed producer and from that perspective we want to support the native pollinators so we are keen to develop more native biodiversity corridors.”

As FAR associate director, McKenzie replaces Fraser Dymond, a forage and cropping adviser for H&T Agronomics in Waikato, who has completed his 12-month term.    

Dymond said the board experience was rewarding, “particularly as it was an industry that I am involved with and have a passion about”.

“There is a diverse range of skills and experience on the board and it was great to be part of that.” 

Long-term, he is keen to be involved in governance, particularly in agriculture and the arable sector. 

Dymond’s next plan is to complete a director’s course and apply for other governance roles as a way to contribute to the industry.

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