The Global Farmer Network recently queried some of its members with some questions about their views on sustainability in their countries, regions and local areas. This week’s response is from GFN Board member Craige Mackenzie from New Zealand who farms along with his wife Roz. They have received a number of awards for innovative farming efforts (more info), including Craige being named the 2016 International Precision Ag Farmer of the Year.
Global Farmer Network Board member – Craige Mackenzie, Methven, New Zealand
Question: What is your definition of sustainable farming?
Answer: Sustainable farming is where the appropriate system is being used to produce food in a way that looks after the environment and also the economic viability of the food producer. This will include efficient use of all inputs such as nutrients and water without impacting on water quality or adding to climate change impacts. It is important to recognize that all tillage types have a place and the use of these depends on the environment we live in and the crops we grow, technology is having and will continue to help us increase our sustainable food production systems.
Question: What farming practices are you using on your farm today that helps the sustainability of your farming operation and the soil that you are farming on?
Answer: We are using a wide range of Precision Agriculture technology but one of the key things for us is the efficient use of water which allows us to grow a range of crops while using all the tools available such fertilizer which if used correctly can build and maintain our soil carbon levels.
Question: Where do you get information about sustainable farming practices that are appropriate for your farm?
Answer: We gather information from around the world through our extensive networks but we need to be able to do our own ground truthing for our own systems, some of the sustainable practices are developed ourselves when we cannot find an appropriate solution.
Question: How do you determine what practices work best on your farm?
Answer: This depends on the crops we are growing and what is required for that specific crop. This will be determined by the place in the rotation and the specific needs of the crop and will also be determined by the value of the crop. Export requirements such as seed quality which is required to be able to supply seed has a large influence on our inputs and farming practices for each crop or product produced.
Question: Are there specific technologies that will support the sustainability of your farming operation?
Answer: The spatial measurements and applications of inputs through the use of Precision Ag techinques is key to us being able to increase our sustainable farming practices.
Question: Do you share sustainable farming practices that you use with other farmers? If yes, how?
Answer: We are involved in a range of different groups where we are able to share what we are doing by using a range of sustainable practices, this is on a local and also a global basis. I am involved with our central government to help develop systems to grow the extension process in New Zealand and have been part of global climate change mitigation discussions for both the developing and developed farming world.