Three awards for Birch Hill Station at East Coast Ballance Farm Environment Awards

An ethos of “enriching land and people” has helped the owners of Birch Hill Station to gain three awards at the recent East Coast Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Ben and Libby Tosswill took out the Norwood Farming Efficiency Award, the NZFET Climate Recognition Award and the East Coast Farming for the Future Award.

Carrying on a family legacy of farming at Porangahau, Central Hawke’s Bay, the couple strives to produce sustainable food while enhancing the natural environment. Ultimately, they want their employees to see the farm as theirs too – and make their own positive impact to improve it for the future.

Ben’s parents bought the station in 1975, and he and Libby started farming it in 2010 when they purchased its stock and plant. Twelve years later, they took over ownership.

Throughout, they have focused on adapting to meet shifting consumer preferences toward sustainable, ethical meat and fibre.

Across the 1300ha (720ha effective) property, farming practices are carefully tailored to achieve goals around profits, diversification, and enhancing both land and people. The farming operation includes sheep breeding and finishing, complemented by beef breeding and finishing, with a flexible heifer trading component.

Additional income is derived from forestry and a luxury glamping business. By trying new things and closely measuring results, Libby and Ben are working toward an optimum stock policy and sheep flock that will consistently hit production targets.

The judges said they were impressed with their excellent understanding of water quality. Significant work has gone into protecting waterways and wetlands, with this backed up by regular water monitoring.

Building on a legacy of environmental work, they have protected a further 23ha of native bush with a QEII National Trust Covenant and are restoring two wetlands. Ultimately it means their business operates against a backdrop of native trees that provide shelter for stock and habitats for native species, including a colony of critically endangered native long-tailed bats.

With an approach that centres around protecting the natural ecosystem, this couple’s approach looks set to enable both business and environment to flourish into the future.

The Ballance Farm Environment Awards are run by the NZ Farm Environment Trust and champion sustainable farming and growing. The Supreme Winner from each of the 11 regions involved in the awards will be considered for the Gordon Stephenson Trophy at the trust’s National Showcase in Hamilton in June. The recipients of the Gordon Stephenson Trophy become 2024′s National Ambassadors for Sustainable Farming and Growing.


First published by HB Today.


Other Articles:

HB Future Farming – Birch Hill Station secures three accolades at the East Coast Ballance Farm Environment Awards

NZ Farm Environment Trust – Ben and Libby Tosswill of Birch Hill Station