Thursday, November 30, 2023

Kids learn hard work pays off

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A Canterbury pair has outshone 13 other teams to take out the title as 2020 FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year.
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Jack Coakley and Mac Williams from St Bede’s College were crowned the winners after a week of challenges.

“It was an incredible result. We put a lot of hard work in this week so to come out with the result we got was an incredible feeling,” Coakley said.

The pair entered Friday morning in fifth place and Williams says they tried their hardest throughout the day.

“It’s really rewarding to be able to compare your skills to others around the country and prove to yourself what you can do when you put your mind to it and take your passion to the next level,” he says. 

Guy Von Dadelszen and Tristin Peeti-Webber from Napier Boys’ High School came second, representing the East Coast region.

Northern cousins Nick and Zoe Harrison from Okaihau College were third.

Nicole Wakefield-Hart and Hannah White from Geraldine High School won the FMG People’s Choice Award with their special video.

Three South Island FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year regional finals and the grand final were all cancelled or moved online when covid restrictions on events began in March.

Young Farmers chief executive Lynda Coppersmith says the quick decision was made to move everything online and deliver a contest for Teen Ag members alongside the AgriKids contest for primary school children.

Organising it created some new challenges.

“Working with two contests, 35 teams, 12 sponsors, 14 modules as well as all the other tasks was a huge logistical undertaking. 

“It took a lot of things to fall in to place, a lot of people to make it work and a really strict time frame,” she says.

“The events team has done the most amazing job to pull this off and I cannot thank them enough, along with our sponsor family and volunteers for all the hard work they all have put in to make both events happen and run seamlessly.”

The grand final started on Saturday June 13 when the two teams from each region went head to head creating a tumble composter from a barrel for the farmlet challenge.

The lifting of alert levels and restrictions allowed it to go ahead with help from Young Farmers volunteers who hosted and judged the regional challenges.

Speech topics were handed out during the week and innovation projects were handed in on Wednesday before the big grand final day on Friday.

The 14 teams presented their speeches, sat an exam and competed in a series of modules that included soil science, animal welfare, environment and farm planning, identifying risks with WorkSafe, studying the Future of Farming report and developing biosecurity plans for farms.

The speeches were based on carbon emissions and water quality relating to food production in New Zealand and in the innovation project teams had to produce a business plan and a five-minute marketing presentation on how they would develop and diversify a 250ha property in the covid-19 local market.

“The farmlet was pretty hard. We got a different set of equipment compared to others but it was all right in the end. We found that very, very tough actually,” Williams says. 

He enjoyed the innovation project because it involved things teenagers didn’t usually get to do.

They broke the 250ha farm down into 40ha of sheep milking, 170ha of lamb finishing and 15ha of market garden.

“We came up with an idea of producing and selling our own meat for value-add, an abattoir and our own sheep-milking processes,” he says.

“We learnt a lot actually. The biosecurity module made me think a bit more and I managed to use a farm that I work on as a base for it.”

The pair thought the hardest part of the week was the preparation and time management.

“We put so much work into it to try to make sure we got top marks for everything – that was the hardest part about it, the work we had to put in,” Coakley says.

“I thought online was actually a really cool way of doing it. It was super smoothly run so we didn’t have any difficulties with any technological issues and it was different to how it was run in previous years, which made it really exciting and new.”

Coppersmith says nothing can replace the excitement and atmosphere of a physical contest but it was still a very exciting grand final with the Face Off and awards ceremony live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube.

“We are very thrilled we were able to reformat parts of the contest to be able to deliver some champions for 2020.”

After finishing school Williams plans to go to Massey University to study veterinary practice while Coakley wants to go to Lincoln University and is tossing up what agriculture degree to do.

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