Well, what a year it has been, not only for ESAI but for all farmers and growers in NZ.
Change is the word that seems to sum up 2023. Change in farming and environmental related regulations, change both in NZ and worldwide in farming systems and how farming is adapting to a fluctuating climate and global consumer demands, change in attitudes and opinions, a change of Chairperson for ESAI and of course, a change in government, which has the potential to bring about changes to the NZ agricultural sector in the coming years.
Many of these changes were discussed at the ‘Everything to Gain’ event in Southland in December 2022 which Jo Fearn (Project Coordinator), Alison Inwood and Hillary Cross (ESAI Committee members) attended. This event gave a real insight into the direction the agricultural sector is moving and the changes that are likely to be needed both at home and overseas. Those who attended the event shared their experience and take-home messages from the event with the members and the Committee which led to vigorous discussions at the monthly Committee meeting. It was a significant way to start the new year; a year where funding for the Tinaku Project was drawing to a close and there was a degree of uncertainty around what that meant for ESAI and the project going forward.
Winter grazing was a prevalent topic in 2023, with new rules coming into place for the upcoming winter season. Feedback from a winter grazing workshop facilitated by the Tinaku Project team in Oct 2022 showed that there was still a degree of confusion around the new regulations and farmers needed more clarity on what their options were.
ESAI teamed up with Environment Canterbury to provide a drop-in day held in March at the Lakeside Hall which gave farmers an opportunity to go along and speak with ECan staff and ask their questions. The day was a real success with over 20 people attending to get the help and advice they needed.
Another significant event in the ESAI 2023 calendar was the ‘Growing your Farming Destiny’ evening event in April hosted by Sarah Perriam-Lampp. Sarah invited along a panel of special guests to discuss and celebrate all the inspiring and innovative farmers doing amazing things here in Aotearoa and encouraging other farmers and growers to elevate their own farming stories. More than 70 people joined the event that included live music and dinner.
ESAI announced in April that further funding had been granted from MPI for a new project called ‘Enhancing Ellesmere’ which would focus on Integrated Farm Planning (IFP), providing a framework of modules that bring together all aspects of a farm business and helps farmers to adapt, respond and progress through change.
The Tinaku Project teamed up with the Whakaora te Waikēkēwai Project in May to hold a free Mahinga Kai workshop at Te Pā o Moki Taumutu Marae. The event attracted more than 40 locals many of which had never had the opportunity to visit the marae previously. The workshop proved highly successful, serving as a chance to build on the connection between ESAI, the community, and the local iwi.
The ESAI Committee had spent a number of months throughout 2023 working with Chris Coughlan from Rural Coach on developing a strategy for the future of the Society.
In June, ESAI members were invited along to help in the process. 30 members and Committee members were involved in the day-long workshop which led to some significant plans and action steps put into place to help shape ESAI as a group going forward.
On the 5th of August, ESAI Committee and Tinaku team members and their partners attended the Selwyn Awards held in Rolleston. Over 600 people attended the gala event which was hosted by Hilary Barry. Ellesmere Sustainable Agriculture Inc was delighted to be awarded overall winner in the Environment & Sustainability category. Tim Chamberlain gave a poignant acceptance speech made even more touching when a few days later, during the AGM, he announced his stepping down as ESAI Chair after 4 years in the position.
During the meeting he talked about the changes that were occurring in his life that had led to the decision and a desire to spend more time on his boat in the Sounds.
He nominated Nigel Greenwood to take his place and those present voted in agreement. Nigel now sits as head of the Committee with Vice Chairman Stuart McPherson.
Also joining the Committee was Grant Everest with returning officers Val McMillan and Jo Jermyn Benny.
After months of planning and preparation the Enhancing Ellesmere Project finally got underway in October with an introductory workshop and then a week later the first module of the IFP which covered business and financial planning, goals, risk assessment and the farm team. More than 20 farmers were present for the first workshop.
The key focus of the new project over the next 2.5 years will be building farmers’ confidence and capability to adapt to change and challenges. The next FREE workshop is being held on the 30th January and will cover the topics of People, Health & Safety, Communication and Leadership. For more info see our events page.
So, as you can see, 2023 has certainly been a year of change and also great achievements.
The ESAI Committee and team wish to thank all its members and followers for their on-going support and hope you all have a wonderful festive season.
We are excited about the year ahead and look forward to connecting with you in 2024!!