Whisky a winner at Fed’s knees up

by | Aug 9, 2022 | News

Three generations of family – all named Robert – have worked the land on an isolated corner of Southland. It’s fertile country – perfect for crops, and also trying new things. 

Rob and Toni Auld’s Southland’s Auld Farm Distillery has been awarded the Innovation title at this week’s New Zealand Arable Awards in Christchurch.

The distillery makes a single malt whisky from purple wheat, black oats, and even black barley. The couple also make a range of three gins from a base alcohol of oat, wheat, and barley. By combining grain from our paddocks and pure water from our own spring in our onsite distillery, the distillery embodies a grain-to-glass philosophy. From trialling unique grains and specialist cultivars, to concocting brews in the Auld Lab — the on-farm test distillery — right through to sourcing their handcrafted, bespoke copper stills, Rob and Toni are “hands-on every step of the way”.

Federated Farmers say the winning couple are “typical of the diversity, entrepreneurship and commitment to quality being displayed so often in the nation’s arable sector”.

Auld Farm Distillery has achieved several world firsts with their products, and that’s not uncommon from an arable sector that leads the world in several categories of the international seed market and has set world records in wheat and barley yields, say Feds.

In other awards, Federated Farmers arable executive member David Birkett, who farms at Leeston, Canterbury, was named Arable Farmer of the Year. Birkett’s citation noted he was a recognised leader in environmental/sustainable farming, with a focus on improving soil quality. He is open to trialling any approach to reduce synthetic inputs, such as biological products, cover crops, retaining straw etc, and is always willing to share his knowledge and results…good or bad.

The immediate past national Vice-President of Federated Farmers Karen Williams, and husband Mick, won the Environment & Sustainability Award.

The 2022 Food Champion is Angela Clifford, a passionate advocate for the arable industry. Clifford formed the organisation EatNZ, and through this, she promotes New Zealand grown and produced food. Angela set up the EatNZ grain food hui, where NZ grain growers have been able to talk about the grain-based food products they produce and showcase them in front of an audience of chefs and food critics.

Meanwhile the award organisers were ready to give themselves a medal after Federated Farmers twice had to expand plans and venue arrangements for the awards as ticket demand grew and eventually had to be capped just shy of 400. Feds and other arable groups have held awards before, but this was the inaugural combined event backed by Federated Farmers, the Foundation for Arable Research, United Wheatgrowers and the Grain & Seed Trade Association.

The full list of 2022 Arable Award winners, with award sponsors in brackets, is:

  • Agronomist of the Year Roger Lasham, Ashburton ( The New Zealand Grain & Seed Trade Association (NZGSTA) )
  • Grower of the Year – Grain David & Anna Irving from Lanark Downs, South Canterbury. ( Bayer)
  • Grower of the Year – Small Seed Hamish Marr, Methven. ( PGG Wrightson Seeds)
  • Grower of the Year – Maize Chris Pellow Pellow Produce, Waikato. ( Pioneer)
  • Emerging Talent Award, Lauren Beattie, Rakaia, South Canterbury (Ballance Agri-Nutrients)
  • Environment & Sustainability Karen & Mick Williams Ahiaruhe Farm, Wairarapa. ( MPI, Ministry for Primary Industries)
  • Arable Farmer of the Year David Birkett from Birkett Farming, Leeston. ( Federated Farmers )
  • Innovation Rob and Toni Auld from Auld Distillery, Southland. ( FAR (Foundation of Arable Research))
  • Arable Food Champion’ Angela Clifford Eat New Zealand. ( Countdown)

Boom times in the fields

The total production from the arable sector in 2021 was 2.3 million tonnes. This was a 31 per cent increase from 2018 when total arable production was 1.8 million tonnes. Total grain and pulse production of 2.2 million tonnes was a 30 per cent increase from 2018. Meanwhile, seeds for sowing production grew by 40 percent from 58,268 tonnes in 2018 to 81,470 tonnes in 2021.

In 2021 the arable sector directly produced crops worth $1 billion. These sales went upstream of the arable sector and created total sales of all goods and services of $2.2 billion. These total sales were equivalent to a contribution of $932 million to New Zealand’s gross domestic product (GDP). This has seen the arable sector increase its contribution to GDP from 0.3 percent of national GDP to 0.34 percent. The contribution to GDP is sufficient to support 7,687 full-time equivalent employees.

 

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