Saturday, April 20, 2024

Fitzherbert Young Farmer off to the final

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Zayn Jones will represent Taranaki Manawatū at championship in July.
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The chair of Fitzherbert Young Farmers is one step closer to winning New Zealand’s most prestigious farming award after being crowned Taranaki Manawatū FMG Young Farmer of the Year. 

Zayn Jones, 31, was announced as the winner on Saturday evening, following two days of fierce competition at the Central Districts Field Days in Feilding. Now, he gears up to take on six other regional finalists in the ultimate showdown at the FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final, being held in Hamilton in July.  

The weekend’s event was one of seven regional finals happening across Aotearoa between February and April. Details of what challenges would be thrown at the Taranaki Manawatū event were kept under wraps from the 30 determined contestants.   

 “Winning a ticket to the Grand Final is really cool and I’m looking forward to stepping out of my comfort zone even more,”  said Jones, a dairy farm manager near Opiki.

This was only Jones’s second attempt at the competition. He joined Young Farmers in 2022 and has immersed himself in what the network has to offer.  

 “Since I’ve joined Young Farmers, I’ve been trying to put myself out there. I’m the chairman of the club and vice-chair of the region so competing in the contest has been another way that I’ve been able to challenge myself,” he said. 

The head-to-heads were a highlight and were “different” to what Jones had seen in the past, a credit to the Taranaki Manawatū organising committee. 

 “In the first head-to-head we had to untwist a gate which was a real brain jerker and was something more practical you might come across on-farm.  

 “The speed shear in the second head-to-head really split the competition in half. I was lucky that I’ve done a bit of shearing before but some of the dairy guys had never picked up a handpiece.”

 Another highlight for Jones was competing against his partner, Natalie Ahlborn, a fellow Fitzherbert Young Farmers member.  

“She was a bit unsure about competing, but I was fully backing her, she knows her stuff! The committee did an amazing job of the spread of knowledge that was needed so she did really well. It’s flicked on the flame for her to enter again!   

 “I’m encouraging our young members to get involved and give the contest a try. It may be daunting at the start, but the more you put in the more you get out.” 

 Sean Taylor, 30, from Marton Young Farmers clinched second place. Matt Lever, 21, representing the Massey Young Farmers, secured the final spot on the podium. 
 Jones is looking forward to competing at the Grand Final and will be using his network to upskill and build his knowledge.  

“There’s a lot to cover and I’ll lean heavily into people that have competed before. I’ve already had offers of support, so I’ll definitely take people up on those.” 

Nicolas Verry and Jack Aitken-Cade from Palmerston North Boys’ High School were unbeatable, taking out the Taranaki Manawatū FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year title for 2024. Meanwhile, the Halcombe School AgriKidsNZ team made up of Maggie Lintott, Max Ireland and Taylor Lane were the 2024 Taranaki Manawatū AgriKidsNZ Champions. 

 Haylee Baker and Mikayla Marshall from Feilding High School placed second in the FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year competition.   

Runner-up and third in the AgriKidsNZ contest were Maisie Johnstone, Max Staples, and Jonty Howland also from Halcombe School and Hamish Gallen, Ben Gallen and Braxton Jacobs from Waituna West.

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