Leading the pack - Crawford Farms : Case study

A self-proclaimed “townie” from Hikurangi, Geoff Crawford grew up watching a nearby farmer get the cows in and knew he wanted to be that guy one day. Thirty years on, he and wife Jo have been named the 2022 Northland Supreme Ballance Farm Environment Award winners. 

Saving his pocket money, he got into contracting at the young age of 17 and started his own business, allowing him to buy his first farm at 20, and his first dairy farm at 22. While continuing his contracting business and employing sharemilkers, Geoff had a unique opportunity to view his farms with a different set of eyes to those living on farm, running the operation day in, day out. It was an approach that soon saw the Crawfords pave the way as some of Northlands's top farmers.  

Geoff Crawford next to a stream with a trap.Geoff Crawford is the 2022 Northland Supreme Ballance Farm Environment Award winner.

“When you have a love for the land you want it to feel better and look better without being told,” Geoff reckons. 

“You’ve always got to be one step ahead; you never want to be the guy that isn’t. We bought a few farms that were rundown which have been quite an effort, but you’ve got to take the time to understand and know the land before making changes”   

Geoff and Jo have put a large amount of work into fencing, restoring and planting waterways, many of which are now well established and flourishing with manuka and flax.   

“I love looking at the farm. If it looks good, it means the cows and pastures look good and the birds are singing. It’s like a pulsing organism - everything is going, if you stop and listen you can hear it.” 

Recently, the Crawfords started two pest control groups (as well as being active members of the Tanekaha Community Pest Control Area) encouraging their neighbours and community in Kauri and Marua to get involved. They are targeting possums, stoats and wild cats in a bid to regenerate bush and bring back bird song in the area.  

Geoff says these groups are a great way to connect and get to know everyone while feeling like you’re making a difference. The hard work is already paying off with new growth already sighted on totara and previously damaged puriri trees which are now full of leaves and buds. 

Geoff’s approach is to not rush into projects. Instead, he likes to spend time researching, taking on advice and making sure future proofing methods are in place which will grow with the farm as it becomes more productive. 

“Part of the goal when we entered the Environment Awards was to prove that large scale farming can be ahead of the game when often in the eyes of the wider public it’s not.” 

The Crawfords are holding an open day at their Crane Road property on Thursday 8 September to share some of their land management techniques and successes with those who are interested. They will also be sharing some of the current sustainability trials they are undertaking, including the elimination of nitrogen from their farming system and an effluent trial with microbes. 

Picture of a section of the Crawford farm showing riparian planting and fencing.

Environmental sustainability is a cornerstone of the business, based on an approach that considers connections across the entire farm system.

Picture of the Crawford farm showing fencing and planting along a waterway.

A large amount of work has gone into fencing, restoring and planting waterways on Crawford Farms.