CHB farmer Hugh Ritchie grows just about everything – barley, oats, wheat, process carrots, beans, peas sweetcorn, squash, with livestock as well. With a total of 2050 hectares in production.
He does it very well … good enough to be named Arable Farmer of the Year for 2023 by his peers.
Hugh is a determined innovator, seeking and using best practices and technology, lowering his energy, water and fertiliser use. The result, as he said in a recent Farmers Weekly interview: “Organic matter is increased, erosion from both wind and water is decreased, earthworms are increased and internal drainage is increased.” He noted he’s achieving greater returns with sustainable farming.
His business didn’t escape Cyclone Gabrielle, leading Mayor Alex Walker to comment: “Exciting to see Hugh’s passion and leadership for food production recognised, particularly at a time when the Cyclone Gabrielle flooding impacted his land and business so significantly. The resilience and leadership of our rural community has been exceptional and Hugh is an inspirational example.”
Hugh’s involvements to the sector have included stints as chair of the Foundation for Arable Research and a founding member and chair over a decade of local innovation centre, LandWISE (and its first honorary member in 2021). Says Dan Bloomer, LandWISE manager, “He was instrumental in our evolution … leading the group with passion, and identifying areas where research and knowledge was lacking” in areas like irrigation system performance and wind erosion prevention. “I’ve been privileged to work with Hugh for 25 years.”
Says organic grower and fellow LandWISE veteran Scott Lawson of True Earth: “Hugh has been on a journey of soil conservation and cropping sustainability for more than 20 years. He is highly regarded as an early adopter with technology and is a leader in his field.”
I got to know Hugh a bit when we both served on the TANK group charged with developing water policy for the Heretaunga Plains. A super-informed and formidable advocate for his sector … one I’ve disagreed with, with respect, from time to time.
First published by BayBuzz.