Farm Environment Plans have come out on top as the best way for vegetable and fruit growers to manage their environmental impact and at the same time, provide evidence to regulators.
That’s the finding of independent research called Joining the Dots, conducted by Agrilink NZ and New Zealand Good Agricultural Practice (NZGAP) for the New Zealand horticulture industry. (Farm Environment Plans are part of the horticulture industry’s GAP programmes.)
Horticulture New Zealand Sustainability and Extension Manager, Ailsa Robertson says the research is exactly what the industry has needed to support the use of Farm Environment Plans.
‘Joining the Dots shows what we knew all along, which is that Farm Environment Plans are the best tools for growers to use to understand their environmental impact and put in place actions to reduce that impact, where necessary.
‘We’ve already had great success with Farm Environment Plans across different growing regions and systems. In Levin, we are already seeing environmental improvements, and the benefits of growers learning good practices from their neighbours.
‘Growers want to do the right thing. Farm Environment Plans give them the tools to do this and provide evidence to regulators, like local and regional government.’
In summary, Joining the Dots shows how critical elements are interlinked – from problem recognition to research, guidelines, implementation, reporting, and assurance. Farm Environment Plans are a tool for growers to assess environmental risks of their growing operations, decide appropriate actions and timeframes to address those risks, and collate evidence of good management practice. Click here to find out more. Also, click here to read the full report.
Environment Canterbury (ECan) has formally endorsed the use of Farm Environment Plans as a key environmental risk-management tool that helps farmers recognise and manage on-farm environmental risks.
Acting ECan Chief Executive, Stefanie Rixecker says it’s all about action on the ground and continuous improvement.
‘On-farm independent assessments of Farm Environment Plans check that farmers are managing the risks identified in their Farm Environment Plan, and that they are applying good management practice to minimise the impact on water quality.’
Auckland Council’s Healthy Waters team attended Farm Environment Plan workshops run by HortNZ and Vegetables New Zealand in Pukekohe in 2019. At the workshops, Healthy Waters staff reiterated the importance of developing robust Farm Environment Plans to document the good work that growers are doing, and to show continuous improvement.
They also pointed out the value of audited Farm Environment Plans in their provision of good management practice evidence, when it comes to submissions on regional plan changes or when growers are applying for resource consents.
Healthy Waters is responsible for managing and delivering water quality improvements across the greater Auckland region, and providing evidence to guide Auckland Council decisions. HortNZ is working with Healthy Waters to ensure audited Farm Environment Plans can count in regional plan change decisions.
Agrilink NZ Managing Director, Andrew Barber says Joining the Dots highlights that Farm Environment Plans are one component of a whole system designed to drive continual environmental improvement.
‘Farm Environment Plans are the previous missing link that bridges the gap between industry dissemination and implementation.’
NZGAP Manager, Damien Farrelly says that Joining the Dots provides a brilliant overview of how the horticulture industry is using the GAP assurance framework to link environmental science, research and best practice into one comprehensive but accessible system for growers.
‘Joining the Dots’ also illustrates how knowledge and information flows within the system to support grower decision making, while also providing a pathway for growers to report on progress towards environmental objectives and outcomes.’
For growers wanting to know more about GAP Farm Environment Plans, contact NZGAP at firstname.lastname@example.org or Ailsa Robertson at email@example.com.