Mike & Sharon Barton
Leaders in sustainable farming and true changemakers, Mike & Sharon Barton head up a collective of farmers who produce grass-fed beef and lamb on land that protects the future of Lake Taupo.
Mike & Sharon Barton have been farming on the north-western side of Lake Taupo for 16 years. In answer to very real challenges imposed on them by nitrogen restrictions to protect the quality of Lake Taupo, the couple set up their own meat brand Taupo Beef & Lamb in 2011 – a collective of nine farms, around the shore of the lake in the Taupo Catchment, that lead the world in sustainability farming practices.
The farmers adhere to strict environmental standards that protect the pristine waters of Lake Taupo – this includes a cap on stock numbers and a percentage of properties converted to planting to prevent nitrogen release – ensuring its quality for generations to come.
The quality meat that comes from Taupo Beef & Lamb collective is distributed under the Harmony label. These are premium grass-fed animals that are free of antibiotics or growth hormones, and come from farms chosen because they meet the brand’s strict criterion on recognised animal welfare and sustainable farming.
Back in 2004, when Mike and Sharon traded in their life as academics in Auckland to ‘have a go’ at full time farming, they had little idea of where their journey would take them.
“Starting farming in the Taupo Catchment, at a time when policy and legislation were being developed to protect the lake, allowed us to get fully involved in the process and to influence the outcome,” says Mike.
“Taupo Beef and Lamb is the only meat produced in New Zealand under environmental legislation that protects the quality of the receiving water body and we are the only farmers fully audited on an annual basis to ensure they protect the catchment in which they farm,” says Mike.
Having recently down-sized to a much smaller farm, Mike and Sharon retain a farming role but have more time to work with other farmers to grow supply. Incredibly knowledgeable, articulate and passionate about sustainable farming, the couple are now busy representing farmers in environmental groups and educating consumers about minimising the impacts of food production on the environment.
“Our typical day varies from visiting supplying farmers to ensure quality and continuity of supply, to presenting a workshop on the impact of food production on the environment, to meeting with chefs and restaurant owners to assess the impact of Covid 19,” says Mike.
Sharon admits they are hard-pressed to choose a best achievement from the many accolades and awards they have received over the years. “But winning the Sustainable Business Network’s Supreme Award “The Business Making the Greatest Contribution to a Sustainable NZ’ in 2015 was truly special.
“When Farro customers choose grass-fed, free range Taupo Beef & Lamb under the Harmony brand, they can know that they are supporting farms that are protecting the clear blue water of Lake Taupo for future generations.”