Former 50/ 50 sharemilkers Chris and Desiree Giles say when they became contract milkers for Waimumu Downs it was a dream come true.

After successfully converting the farm to dairy, Chris and Desiree’s passion for the environment led them to create the Waimumu Downs Project, an education program that works with local schools, the local catchment community and iwi to educate young people about sustainable farming.

They’ve developed a native seed bank for nutrient-rich plants that will attract native birds and bees. Seeds are planted on-farm or given away.

Three years into the conversion they built a calf shed that makes great use of light and solar power as well as retained numerous shelter belts for protection – even though they no longer matched fence lines.

There are also four wetlands on the property and the couple is enhancing biodiversity by moving away from monoculture forage and pasture crops. There’s a strong focus on the preventative care of stock, with cows well-fed and monitored closely. The Giles are minimising fertiliser use and have implemented systems for both waste and water recycling.

Their efforts have been recognised nationally through awards for excellence in sustainability, business management and soil management.