WORDS Kate Pierson PHOTOS Declan Tobin

The growing phenomenon of sustainability has brought the principles of ‘renew’, ‘restore’ and ‘revive’ into the limelight. Evidence of these ideas gaining meaningful traction is ubiquitous – from a growing opposition to fast fashion, right through to more environmentally-conscious New Zealand farming. In fact, the latter is the focus of this story.

For generations, farmers and growers have been feeding the world, and they have faced an enduring challenge in their endeavour to strike a balance between environmental, social and economic sustainability. As ever, nothing of significance comes easy, but today’s primary sector is populated with many successful examples.

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On home soil, Duncan and Tina Mackintosh epitomise what sustainability looks like in action. Finalists in this year’s Ballance Farm Environment Awards, run by the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust, the Mackintoshes farm – White Rock Mains – was brought to life through the vision of Duncan Mackintoshes’ ancestors in 1909. The sheep, beef and dairy support property was purchased by the pair in 2012 in partnership with Duncan’s brother and his wife.

The Mackintoshes show an admirable dedication to helping their environment prosper and a 91ha QEII covenant was recently established. But it was the Mackintoshes strong community spirit, and their involvement with many social initiatives, that really impressed this year’s judges. The family’s local school, North Loburn, is just one of the beneficiaries of their generosity of spirit through the Garden to Table programme Tina is integrally involved with.

Garden to Table exists to revive the previously lost or very diluted art of preparing food from scratch, and aims to restore the invaluable knowledge about how food can be sustainably produced and prepared, without all of the technological bells and whistles of the modern era.

The programme starts with growing produce, and runs right through to picking, cooking and eating what is grown during group lunches. Tina is passionately advocating for the inclusion of meat to teach kids about where it comes from and its nutritional benefits.

The Mackintoshes are also committed to helping imbue the farming sector with greater social sustainability – not using the often bandied about ‘she’ll be right’ narrative – but instead renewing the critical discussion about wellbeing that has been buried under years of stigma.

The Mackintoshes recently devised a Shear-A-Thon in aid of suicide prevention. This initiative saw $45,000 raised by the local community, with $10,000 donated to four different mental health organisations.

Needless to say, the future is bright for White Rock Mains and the Mackintoshes are thrilled to have entered the Ballance Farm Environment Awards as a way to inform their decision making.

“While the environmental side of things is important, the awards are not just looking at the environmental footprint of the farm – it’s the whole system, so there’s that much more to what you can learn from the judges,” Duncan says.