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Waikato organic farmers improve waterways through native tree planting

Black cow in paddock

Waikato organic farmers Robyn and Hamish have factored in tree planting as part of their commitment to restoring the land, and have already planted an impressive 2,500 native trees. To boost their planting efforts, they've also applied for free native trees through Trees That Count.

For Robyn Budd and Hamish Browne, farming their 106 hectare Waikato property Black Pond Farm is more like going to their “playground” than to work.

Both passionate about sustainable farming, they purchased the farm in Mangatangi two years ago – intent on leaving the land better than they found it. Now well underway with converting to organic farming, Hamish and Robyn have also placed 17 hectares of native bush under a QEII covenant.

“We just want to make sure we do better for the environment and leave something positive. We’re trying to do things as close to nature as nature intended,” said Robyn.

Robyn and Hamish have factored in tree planting as part of their commitment to restoring the land, and have already planted an impressive 2,500 native trees. And while passion goes a long way, they both admit that planting trees on a large scale is not without its challenges.

“It’s really expensive and a lot of hard work to get them all in the ground. We want to see results as quickly as possible on the land and that’s when we decided to apply for free trees through Trees That Count for next year,” said Robyn.

The couple were approved for 1200 native trees which were funded through the Trees That Count marketplace by Vero Insurance (part of Suncorp Group), and they’ve already got big plans for where they’ll go during the 2020 planting season.

“We have a number of springs that start on our property so we really feel a responsibility to provide the environment that encourages the natural stream life cycle to restore itself and thrive,” said Hamish.

“We’ll plant half a kilometre of waterways with the funded trees and plants which will provide shade and help stop erosion and sediment from entering the stream – restore fish and vertebrate life and stop any nasties heading out into the ocean,” said Hamish.

When they first got stuck in to regenerating the land, Robyn and Hamish planted 51 hectares in heritage grasses. Add to that a 60-day grazing rotation for stock and they started to notice a big improvement in soil quality and animal health within a year.

“It really was a lightbulb moment for us as we saw things change so quickly,” said Hamish.

“The pasture is starting to grow properly now. The animals are eating the good stuff and getting all the nutrients they need – and of course what they poop out helps the soil,” said Hamish.

“The breeding programme has also been part of it, and it’s contributed to the health of the animals, they’re so healthy and happy.”

Robyn and Hamish hope that some of what they’ve been able to achieve in a short time at Black Pond Farm will inspire other farmers to give it a go, but whatever happens, they’ll be pretty happy in their little corner of the world in Waikato.

“This will just be an ongoing and growing scenario for us working with nature and turning this into a beautiful, idyllic spot. We absolutely love what we’re doing, we’re in our playground every day,” said Robyn.