Canterbury’s Patoa Farms wins South Island Farmer of the Year for 2014

Patoa Farms Ltd, a large scale free-farmed pig breeding and finishing operation at Hawarden in North Canterbury, has won the Lincoln University Foundation’s South Island Farmer of the Year competition for 2014.

The finals held yesterday evening at Lincoln University saw four very high calibre entrants vie for the top prize of a $20,000 travel grant for business study.

Foundation Chief Judge Nicky Hyslop said Steve and Josie Sterne, with daughter Holly Sterne, edged out stiff competition with their impressive growth, technical excellence, efficiency of production and strategic focus. They demonstrated that it was possible to achieve at the highest levels of farming technology and business management in an outdoor free-roaming stock operation.

Steve Sterne said, “When I went farming at the age of 39 I did not expect to be standing in front of an audience like this today. The dream is possible. You should not be deterred by the huge effort of amassing enough capital to go farming. I started with three pigs in a woodshed . . . they keep multiplying.”

The farm has 3500 breeding sows and sells 115,000 fat pigs annually. It employs 43 staff and has a $25 million annual turnover.

“The judges,” Hyslop said, “were impressed with the very robust technical production system at all levels including the sows, despite their being outside.”

Runners up were Robin and Lois Greer, who operate both a conventional and an organic dairy farm on adjoining properties (120ha organically farmed, 160ha conventionally farmed) at Tuturau, Southland. Their business includes the production on site of their own brand, Retro Organics, of organic dairy products including yogurts and cheeses.

Hyslop said the operation of the on-farm factory, and the Greer’s strong focus on added value from the production system to market, were outstanding aspects of this business. Judges also praised high levels of innovation in the business, especially in terms of developing new products.

Four special category prizes of $5000 each were also awarded at the finals today:

The BNZ award for Human Resource Management

Recognising commitment both on-farm to building a happy and productive team, and off-farm, through the strength and depth of relationships with suppliers, customers and other people who interact with the farm business. Winner: Patoa Farms Ltd, managed by Steve and Josie Sterne, with Holly Sterne, a 580ha pig farm at Hawarden, North Canterbury, that produces some 15 percent of New Zealand pig meat in an outdoor free-roaming stock operation.

The Silver Fern Farms ‘Plate to Pasture’ award

Given to the finalist who shows the best focus on customer needs and service by showing how they plan their farming operations around what will eventually end up on the consumer’s plate. Winner: Zino Holdings Ltd, operated by Mark and Sam Zino, a 1008ha flats and rolling hills property at Hawarden in North Canterbury, focusing on breeding and fattening sheep, deer and beef cattle.

The Lincoln University prize for Technology and Innovation

Best use of innovation, technology and/or new systems resulting in increased productivity. Winner: Barry and Julie Crawford who run a sheep breeding and finishing property near Gore with a strong focus on high-end lamb meat production.

The Farmlands Cooperative Prize for Resource Use Efficiency

Recognising excellence in the efficient and effective utilisation of the farm’s natural resources and the physical resource inputs needed to generate a high level of production on a sustainable basis, resulting in an excellent long-run return on capital. Winner: Patoa Farms Ltd, managed by Steve and Josie Sterne, with Holly Sterne, a 580ha pig farm at Hawarden, North Canterbury, that produces some 15 percent of New Zealand pig meat in an outdoor free-roaming stock operation.